Climate Crossroads Blog
Posted by: Heather M at 12:49PM PST on November 4, 2010
The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Greenversations blog reminded us that this fall is the 20th anniversary of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments.
Here's the EPA overview on those monumental amendments:
In June 1989 President Bush proposed sweeping revisions to the Clean Air Act....(T)he President proposed legislation designed to curb three major threats to the nation's environment and to the health of millions of Americans: acid rain, urban air pollution, and toxic air emissions. The proposal also called for establishing a national permits program to make the law more workable, and an improved enforcement program to help ensure better compliance with the Act.The Clean Air Act has a long track record of cutting dangerous pollution to protect human health and the environment and spur innovation. It deserves to be celebrated and protected.
So why not head over to EPA's Greenversations blog and share your stories about why clean air is important to you?
Posted by: Bruce Nilles at 11:42AM PST on November 4, 2010
My colleague said it well yesterday in his response to Tuesday's election results - we will not cede our future to polluters, who again poured tens of millions of dollars into various campaigns.
No surprise here, the coal industry is part of those polluters throwing money around to support candidates who will keep the loopholes and handouts in place and help them block any action on global warming. According to an election spending report from the Center for American Progress:
American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) has spent more than $16.3 million in 2010, including $3,005,540 on a national ad and buys in Washington, D.C., Montana, and Texas over the last three months. The group has budgeted $20 million for online campaigns. This Big Coal front group is infamous for its forged letters to members of Congress opposing clean energy and climate legislation that resulted in a congressional investigation.But the shady politics don't stop there. If you ever wanted evidence that the coal industry is corrupting our politics, look no further than the state of Kansas and the decision Tuesday by Governor Mark Parkinson to fire his chief environmental official Rod Bremby.
In 2007, under then-Governor Kathleen Sebelius, Bremby had the courage to reject the massive proposed Sunflower coal plant because of its impacts on global warming. Global warming, Bremby argued, threatened the health and welfare of all Kansans.
After the state legislature enacted new legislation that attempted to eliminate Bremby's authority to reject the permit and Sebelius was called to Washington to serve as Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, Governor Parkinson struck a deal with Sunflower Corporation to fast-track the coal plant permit.
However, Bremby remained firm that he was not rushing the permitting and he had an obligation to ensure a fair and open public process and fulfill his legal duties to review the permit's legality before it could be issued.
But on Tuesday, with everyone consumed with election coverage, Governor Parkinson fired Bremby. This was a crass political move to ensure the permit is issued before the Governor leaves office in January 2011.
And another example of coal's corruption comes from Indiana, where Duke Energy is under investigation because "(a) top attorney in the Indiana Utilities Regulatory Commission took a job with Duke, which he appears to have negotiated at the same time he was overseeing decisions about Duke's new power plant."
The Duke plant is already under construction (and $1.3 billion over-budget) and will continue construction during this ethics investigation.
Meanwhile in Kentucky, coal isn't just proving itself unethical again, it's proving itself dangerous. The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) announced yesterday it is asking a federal judge to shut down a Massey Energy coal mine in protect workers there. This the first time the MSHA has ever used this power.
In filing for a preliminary injunction in U.S. District Court, the government cites persistently dangerous conditions in Massey Energy's Freedom Mine No. 1 in Pike County....The Freedom Mine employs about 130 miners and was cited for safety violations more than 700 times this year alone.Coal is dirty and dangerous, and our politics and our health are at risk as long as the coal industry maintains its lock on our energy sector.
That is why our work is so very important. We are not giving up and we are not done.
Posted by: Heather M at 9:08AM PST on November 3, 2010
While some of you may be bummed about yesterday's voting, there were some great voting results from over the weekend. I'll let this press release from Cool Cities Campaign Coordinator Cammy Watkins tell you.
2012 National Model Energy Code Boosts New Home and Commercial Building Energy Efficiency by Thirty Percent
Charlotte, NC-This week the members of the International Code Council (ICC), which consist of state, county, and city building and fire code officials, voted on a series of proposals that would increase the energy efficiency standards for newly constructed homes by 30 percent. After two decades of modest energy efficiency gains, it’s clear that building officials across the nation have embraced the need for much greater energy efficiency in our building energy codes for new construction.
“Code officials this week made the common sense choice, understanding that energy efficiency is not a luxury, it is a necessity, and that was evident in the overwhelming support for strong energy efficiency proposals,” stated Camellia Watkins, Campaign Coordinator Sierra Club National.
Homes and buildings constitute the largest sector of energy consumption in the United States, accounting for nearly half of all U.S. greenhouse gas pollution and using more than 75 percent of the electricity generated from power plants, making them a major contributor to global warming.
Delegates voted in favor of proposals that will increase efficiency through measures such as better insulation, better windows, improved air tightness and ducts, and better lighting. Taken together, the approved proposals achieve a model code that is at least 30 percent more energy efficient than the 2006 version of the model code.
“This was a goal three years in the making,” said Ron Majette, Project Manager for R&D Building Codes for the U.S. Department of Energy. “We’re ecstatic.”
Even considering the small added construction costs of more efficient buildings, these measures will save homeowners money by reducing monthly utility bills. These net savings translate into an extra $511 in the pocket of the average new American homeowner each year.
“Code officials today passed measures that increase energy efficiency and will save on electricity, gas, and fuel oil bills for people across the U.S,” commented Steve Rosenstock, manager at Edison Electric Institute, a coalition that represents private utilities across the nation.
Forty-seven states and the District of Columbia base their building codes upon these national model standards. “Our next step is to encourage states and localities to adopt the 2012 IECC so that all new homebuyers will benefit from improved efficiency,” stated Bill Fay Director, Energy Efficient Codes Coalition.
Harry Misuriello, Outreach Coordinator for the Energy Efficient Codes Coalition went on to add, “Local governments clearly realize the importance of energy codes to their constituents and the local economy; that’s why they sent their delegates here to Charlotte to support these clean energy economy strengthening proposals.”
The 30 Percent Solution 2012 proposal was developed and submitted by the Energy Efficient Codes Coalition (EECC). State and national supporters of the proposal include Edison Electric Institute, the National Low Income Housing Coalition, Environment America, Sierra Club, The U.S. Conference of Mayors, Global Green USA, The American Chemistry Council, and the National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO).
Posted by: Heather M at 8:47AM PST on October 27, 2010
There's a ton of news out there about various clean energy and dirty energy issues, so here's another round-up of what you may have missed in the past week.
First up, today is the final Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) public hearing on its proposed safeguards for handling coal ash (the toxic by-product of burning coal for electricity). Today's hearing is in Knoxville - not too far from the site of the devastating 2008 coal ash spill at the Tennessee Valley Authority Kingston coal plant.
The Sierra Club has plenty of concerned community members at the hearing, all calling for strong safeguards from EPA for this toxic waste. Some folks are tweeting during the hearing, so watch the #coalash hashtag for their updates.
Continuing on the coal news front, the NY Times had two good articles up this week about the Navajo Nation in Arizona wanting to move away from coal power and toward clean energy like solar and wind power. Be sure to read "Navajos Come to Grips with Coal Mining" and "Navajos Hope to Shift from Coal to Wind and Sun." Both pieces also include quotes from Sierra Club organizers working hard on these issues.
In other coal news, the fight over this dirty energy source in Texas now includes available wawter resources. From a Houston Chronicle article:
Coal-fired power plants are commonly identified as the nation's biggest emissions villain. But that notoriety hasn't slowed the rush to build them in Texas, where there are nearly 30 coal plants either operating, permitted or proposed.Moving on to natural gas news, yesterday Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell announced a moratorium on any future natural gas drilling on public lands in the state.
"The Sierra Club applauds this stopgap measure, but it is not enough," said Pennsylvania Sierra Club Director Jeff Schmidt. "We are appalled that the Pennsylvania Senate failed to pass a natural gas severance tax, a state forest protection bill, or other Marcellus gas-related legislation before adjourning. Senate leadership has chosen to put political campaigning ahead of the needs of the people of Pennsylvania."The Keystone State is a natural gas battleground right now, with residents uniting to express their concerns about "fracking." On Nov. 3rd, the Pennsylania Sierra Club is joining a massive coalition protesting a natural gas conference in Pittsburgh. The Sierra Club nationally and in Pennsylvania are working hard to call for safe natural gas as a transition fuel.
On the dirty energy front, did you watch PBS' Frontline last night all about BP's history of safety infractions? The special covered not just those infractions that led up to the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, but the company's many other deadly safety issues at a Texas refinery and along Alaska's north slope. You can now watch the full show online.
More depressing dirty energy news - tar sands continue to be terrible. The latest news is that 125 ducks had to be euthanized after landing in a massive tar sands waste pond in Canada. Let's not bring this dirty fuel into the U.S.
And now for some good news. Our good clean energy news comes from Houston, Texas, where settlement with Shell oil company enabled the installation of solar panels on two city high schools.
"We are delighted with this solar power project in the two south Houston schools -- It not only demonstrates the best direction for Texas clean energy future, it also provides real benefits to the schools and the young people," said Sierra Club's Jennifer Powis. "The school district is expected to save over $10,000 annually in reduced electricity bills and the students will study and learn how solar power works."More good energy news, this time on the efficiency front. Yesterday EPA announced the winners of its First National Building Competition to Save Energy.
A residence hall at the University of North Carolina took first place - reducing "its energy use by 35.7 percent in one year, saving more than $250,000 on their energy bills and reducing more than 730 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, equivalent to the carbon dioxide emissions from the electricity use of nearly 90 homes for a year."
The full results are inspiring.
Although apparently it isn't that sort of inspiration that will get people to go green. According to this fascinating Wall Street Journal article, peer pressure and guilt are what gets action.
Posted by: Heather M at 11:59AM PST on October 20, 2010
This is a guest post by Rachel Butler, National Conservation Organizer for the Sierra Club Green Transportation Team.
Today is the six month anniversary of the explosion of BP's Deepwater Horizon oil rig, a tragedy that claimed 11 lives and marked the beginning of the ongoing BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Though the well has been capped, the saga is far from over for the Gulf Coast communities and the Gulf ecosystem.
America's dependence on oil has pushed oil companies to drill in more and more dangerous places for bigger and bigger profits, resulting in disasters like the explosion of BP's Deepwater rig. This disaster and its aftermath highlight the need for America to get serious about breaking our addiction to oil.
Seventy percent of the 557 million gallons of oil used daily in the U.S. are for transportation, and the vast majority of that oil is used in our passenger cars and trucks. To move beyond oil, it's clear that we have to reform our outdated, oil-soaked transportation system.
We cannot end our dependence on oil until we emphasize convenient transportation choices that reduce our need to drive, like passenger and freight rail and public transit.
Instead, we must develop our towns and cities into livable communities where people can walk, bike, or take transit to their destinations rather than waste time, money, and gas sitting in stop-and-go traffic. We must develop 21st century transportation system that includes high speed rail that connects city centers and to transit – all without oil!
The good news is that investing in transportation reform that provides 21st century transportation choices is not only the right thing to do in the wake of the BP disaster, but it's also the right thing to do to jump-start our economy.
A recent report released by the White House Council of Economic Advisors and the Department of the Treasury (PDF) shows that investment in public transit infrastructure is in high public demand and will create jobs for the middle class. Analysis of the 2009 economic stimulus also showed that funding for public transportation created twice as many jobs per dollar as funding for roads.
Another report released today by the Apollo Alliance, entitled "Make it in America: The Apollo Clean Transportation Manufacturing Action Plan," (PDF) shows that investment in transportation infrastructure that creates a globally competitive transit and clean vehicle manufacturing sector in the United States can create 3.7 million jobs in the U.S., including 600,000 jobs in the manufacturing sector.
In the shadow of the BP disaster and under the weight of a sagging economy, there's no time to lose. America must invest in a 21st century transportation system that puts America back to work, provides transportation choices, and moves us beyond oil.
To join in the Sierra Club's work for a 21st century transportation system that moves us beyond oil, become a Sierra Club Transportation Activist.
First photo by Jordan Macha.
Posted by: Bruce Nilles at 8:31AM PST on October 14, 2010
This is the latest in our series of community coal ash profiles. This piece was written by Sierra Club Apprentice Lydia Avila.
The community of Joliet, Illinois, identifies as many things - Midwestern, humble, and hard-working. Yet they also identify with something much less positive: being collateral damage. According to Joliet residents, they don't even merit a second thought to Midwest Generation, a coal-fired power plant that has been dumping toxic coal ash near Joliet for over 40 years.
Coal ash is the byproduct of burning coal for electricity, and it's having a major impact on Joliet. Residents say if you were to spend a week in Joliet you would find yourself driving through coal ash fog; a stroll in your yard would cause you to come back covered in "black stuff" and/or yellow particulates; you wouldn't be able to drink or bathe in the water; and your clothes would come out of the washer tinted orange and black from the chemicals in the water.
If you spent time in Joliet, residents say, you would see this "black stuff" covering your car, yard and house on a daily basis, and you certainly could not fish in any of the lakes, rivers or streams in the area.
But, they added, even worse are the health effects that you and your loved ones would experience: nose bleeds, blisters, skin infections, migraines, coughing, gagging, mercury poisoning, neurological disorders, to name a few. And, these would culminate in the form of asthma, kidney transplants, heart transplants, lymphoma, neurological disorders, seizures, rare forms of leukemia, emergency hysterectomies, and lupus (again, just to name a few).
Tammy Thompson knows the health effects first-hand - calling herself and her family part of that collateral damage. Her six-year-old daughter Faith has suffered the effects of living near a coal plant since she was born. Faith’s doctor diagnosed her with Grave's Disease and recommended that she, and all the children in Joliet, be routinely tested for lead and mercury poisoning.
Thompson recalls times when she often had to struggle to gain composure in her car, while her daughter in the backseat would ask, "What's that smell, mommy?" and then complain of headaches. She saw her daughter suffer from blisters and sores every time they bathed her in a storage tub filled with bottled water following recommendations from her doctor, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) and others. Yet, for a long time, their health problems remained a mystery.
Thompson and her neighbors have taken matters into their own hands, filing report after report and making phone call after phone call to local, state and federal agencies. When Thompson discusses the actions taken by the people of Joliet, she underscores the fact that this is a human issue: "I'm not an environmentalist, I'm a mom. I'm not an activist, I'm an American," she said.
Unfortunately, Joliet residents say their concerns have consistently been ignored by every public agency and department that, in theory, is supposed to help them.
The IEPA and local officials play a game of ping pong with their cries for help, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) claims not to have jurisdiction over the area. The IEPA likes to claim that these diseases occur naturally, but there is nothing natural about the levels at which they occur in Joliet.
On the rare occasions when the IEPA has returned a few a call, agency officials have tried to justify the horrendous living conditions by saying the jobs at the coal plant and its coal ash disposal site are needed.
Thompson says that supposed "gain" certainly pales in comparison to watching her family and friends suffer the health effects. "'Get use to it and get over it' is what they try to tell us," Thompson said.
Not surprisingly, when the Environmental Integrity Project and Sierra Club's recently released coal ash report, "In Harm's Way," Joliet was listed as one of the most contaminated sites in the country. The town of Joliet has received national attention from such figures as Erin Brockovich and, at the time, Senator Obama.
Thompson and her community continue to ask why they aren't receiving any help. "Why doesn't the EPA prove something is safe? Why must we wait for a body count to show it’s not?" asked Thompson.
"It's not an environmental issue; it's an ethical, social and civil rights issue."
Tell EPA we need strong federal safeguards for toxic coal ash.
Posted by: Heather M at 11:42AM PST on October 13, 2010
The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy just released its 2010 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard and we wanted to share it with you. One of our policy analysts pulled out some highlights (these include bullet points from the press release as well):
Posted by: Heather M at 1:28PM PST on October 11, 2010
This is a guest post by Rachel Butler of the Sierra Club's Green Transportation Team.
On Friday we wrote about the 10/10/10 Global Work Party, anticipating an unprecedented day of action with people getting to work across the globe for climate solutions.
Yesterday was 10/11/10 and the dust of these work parties is beginning to settle, and it's clear that the 7,347 work parties across the globe - including thousands of events in the United States-- show that the world’s people are leading on climate solutions.
The Sierra Club encouraged its members and activists to get to work on transportation solutions, as the transportation sector accounts for 33% of America's greenhouse gas emissions and 70% of oil use in the U.S. Most of the pollution and oil use comes from cars and light trucks, and it's clear that we're going to have to address our transportation system as we address climate change.
Looking through the photos at 350.org is pretty incredible. It's also inspiring to see how many of these photos involve folks getting to work on their bicycles, especially from our car-centric culture in the United States.
On 10/10/10, millions of people across the globe got to work, had fun, and demonstrated to world leaders that it's time to get to work on climate solutions - but we know that one day of action isn't enough.
The Sierra Club's Transportation Activists are "getting to work" through the year on creating a 21st century transportation system that will move us beyond oil and create transportation choices for all. Couldn't get enough on 10/10/10? Join the Transportation Activists here.
Our work is just getting started.
Photo is of the Minneapolis 10/10/10 bike tour and rally, courtesy of Michelle Rosier of the Sierra Club's Central Region.
Posted by: Heather M at 7:48AM PST on October 8, 2010
This is a guest post from Rachel Butler, National Conservation Organizer for the Sierra Club Green Transportation Campaign.
On October 10th, the Sierra Club is partnering with 350.org and hundreds of other organizations around the world to host a Global Work Party for climate solutions.
This Sunday, volunteers across the world will host events to call for global action on climate and get to work in their communities to create local solutions. Already, more than 7,000 events have been registered across the globe in nearly every country on the planet. It's not too late to join the fun - these 6,700 Work Parties are all about working for and celebrating local solutions to the climate crisis.
Transportation is responsible for over one third of America's greenhouse gas emissions - most of those emissions coming from cars, trucks, and SUVs. In order to get serious about climate solutions in the US, we’re going to have to re-think the (way that we design our communities and how we get from point A to point B.
In his blog this week, Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune highlighted the need for America to reform our transportation system, and on 10/10/10, the Sierra Club is encouraging its members and activists to promote smarter transportation choices that move America beyond oil.
Here's just a sample of some of the exciting Work Parties organized by Sierra Club activists this Sunday:
And if one day of action for smarter transportation choices isn't enough for you, join the Sierra Club's Transportation Activists here to help create a 21st century transportation system in the United States.
Posted by: Bruce Nilles at 9:27AM PST on October 7, 2010
This post is the latest in our series of community coal ash profiles. It was written by Sierra Club Apprentice Flavia de la Fuente.
When a company named Making Money, Having Fun LLC (how's that for Orwellian?) applied for a permit for a commercial disposal facility to dump coal ash (along with waste oil and gas water) in eastern Oklahoma, they provided geographical maps and documents indicating that, pursuant to the Corporation Commission rules, there was no town of a population below 20,000 within three miles.
Except that's not true.
The town of Bokoshe (450 people) has been there since the 1800s. You can drive through it, you can stop at the post office, and you can graduate from the high school.
But for Making Money, Having Fun, there is no town and there are no rules. For eight years, they have been dumping waste oil and gas water and driving trucks of toxic coal fly ash (as many as 80 trucks in a single day), the product of a nearby coal-fired power plant run by AES, through the main street in town and dumping it in a pit a mere mile and a half from Bokoshe. Dozens of people in Bokoshe have died of cancer or are battling it right now, and children with asthma wake up in the middle of the night, struggling to breathe, afraid that they're going to die.
Diane Reece, an elementary school teacher in Bokoshe, protested the fly ash pit from the beginning.
"We didn't know anything about fly ash at the time," she said. "When they granted us a meeting downtown, it was a courtesy, because they were going to do it anyways. They haven't honored any of the promises they made, and they said it was harmless. And we believed them."
Tim Tanksley, another local Bokoshe resident, also recalls being told not to worry: "They just told everybody it was dirt, that you could put it on your peanut butter and jelly sandwich."
Choosing a site near Bokoshe was nothing if not predatory. Reece stated, "In small towns you have people who help each other. It's a beautiful place to live. It's a wonderful thing to live in a community to help each other. And I feel that they have chosen small towns because we are so trusting. We trusted that they wouldn't be dumping anything to harm us."
"They" is a broad term for the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission (lead state agency in charge of oil and gas water that issued the original permit), and the Department of Mines (lead agency in charge of reclamation).
To Reece and other Bokoshe residents, also complicit is Oklahoma's political leadership: the governor who appoints people to these various commissions, the local congressional representative, and the senators from Oklahoma, who in theory are charged with representing the interests of their constituents.
The ODEQ refuses to acknowledge that fugitive coal fly ash is impacting people and property outside the fence line. The Department of Mines refuses to acknowledge that the pit is leaking contaminated wastewater. And Oklahoma's political leadership refuses to acknowledge basic, incontrovertible science.
Tim Tanksley appealed directly to Senator James Inhofe and Representative Dan Boren to help, who in turn replied, "The fly ash is temporarily mounded while it is mixed with water to form slurry. Ultimately, the mine will be transformed into a pasture. Therefore, the fly ash mound is temporary and will disappear once the reclamation is complete."
Meanwhile, Senator Inhofe and Representative Boren are both helping the pit stay open.
According to Harlan Hentges, Oklahoman and attorney for Bokoshe residents, "Senator Inhofe is all over this thing. EPA stopped (the company) from dumping out there. After that happened, the Senator called EPA to find out when they could resume dumping in the pit. Representative Dan Boren did the same thing."
Hentges has learned to follow the money. "Those businesses pay a whole lot of money to do whatever the hell they want to do. They pay people to exploit the power that they have on their behalf. And you come up with all kinds of interesting ways to justify it. It's becoming really, really hard to justify in Bokoshe. What is wrong with this? What is so twisted here? Why is it so bad that we don't think you should dump fly ash into a pit?"
Bokoshe residents are fighting back, and founded B.E. Cause to protect their town, their health, and the future of their children. They've tussled with state agencies, with their elected officials, and even with other people in Bokoshe.
There's a younger generation that is fighting back as well: Diane Reece's class of sixth graders has taken the kind of initiative that reassures us that small towns are still America's moral compass.
Thanks to a federal grant program called "Learn and Serve America" there is structured time set aside for Reece's class (pictured below) to serve their community. Proposals for this year's program included a "Welcome to Bokoshe" sign and a bench downtown for the gossip group (it's a small town, after all).
But then three girls raised their hands and said, "We need to stop the fly ash." Reece asked the class how many people had asthma, and of the 17 students, 9 raised their hands.
Reece recalled, "That was my answer. They started telling me about what it's like to have asthma. I was listening to them tell me how their attacks made them feel like they were going to die."
"We're just getting started," said Reece, "my sixth graders are leading the cause. The other night at our parent-teacher conference, they got 25 signatures in an hours' time. And this type of stuff is important, because out here, not everybody has access to computers and the internet. Tonight at the football game, we're going to pass out flyers about fly ash."
Bokoshe may be a small town, but the residents have big hearts.
Posted by: Bruce Nilles at 9:46AM PST on October 6, 2010
The coal industry is a filthy business, but that doesn't stop the industry from spending a fortune on PR consultants to try and distract attention away from the costs it imposes on Americans every day. With labels like "clean coal" and "green coal," the coal industry's spinmeisters spend a lot of time and money trying to pretend coal is something it is not.
Now in response to a successful campaign by the Sierra Club and our allies in the United States to stop the construction of new coal plants - we are up to 145 plants stopped - Peabody Energy - the world's largest coal company - is proposing to grow its market by shipping coal overseas to impoverished countries.
Peabody's rationale for going overseas? They have a moral duty to alleviate energy poverty in countries that lack access to electricity.
Before exploring Peabody's new campaign to ship coal overseas, let's take stock at the industry's anti-poverty legacy in the United States:
Over the past five years, the Sierra Club and our allies have highlighted coal's cost on our health and environment and stopped more than 145 new coal plants from breaking ground, effectively ending the industry's opportunity to grow in the United States. Now in response, the industry is taking another page from the tobacco industry's playbook: Ship its deadly product overseas
Peabody Energy recently announced its new campaign to "end global energy poverty." The company is proposing to ship U.S. coal overseas to bring electricity and prosperity to the world's two billion residents that lack access to electricity.
Peabody urges us to ignore coal's pollution and focus on poverty:
"The greatest crisis we confront in the 21st Century is not a future environmental crisis predicted by computer models, but a human crisis today that is fully within our power to solve. For too long, too many have been focused on the wrong end game," said [Peabody CEO and Chairman] Gregory Boyce.Peabody's Boyce even had the audacity to say, "We must put people first." Which people is he referring to? The miners who paid the ultimate price at the Big Branch disaster in April? The 13,000 people who die annually from coal plant pollution?
Peabody wants us to ignore coal's complete lack of concern for its worker and pollution here in the U.S. because it wants to divert focus onto another problem. (They've even got it all spelled out in this Power Point presentation).
This PR ploy is ugly and offensive, and an act of desperation. Students at Washington University in St. Louis recently protested Peabody's Boyce's appearance at their school: "Alleviating poverty worldwide is something we should all be focusing on, especially as we look at developing a clean energy future that is open to everyone - selling more coal however, will only help pad Peabody's pockets."
Just like other dangerous and corrupting corporations before it - read tobacco - the coal industry when feeling the pressure in the U.S. has always tried to target the workers, communities and countries least able to resist their abuses. Today in the U.S., with a national movement to move the country beyond coal there is a bright spotlight on the filthy lifecycle of coal from mining to burning to ash disposal, and the coal industry is running out of places to hide.
It has also run out of growth opportunities in the U.S. and other wealthy countries, and now wants to exports its pollution to developing countries.
Nice try, but we are not going to let this happen.
Mr. Peabody, consider yourself on notice. You can run, but you can't hide. We will not let you replicate your century of abuse of our workers, of our communities, of our environment, elsewhere in the world. We will use every outlet we have to collaborate with our allies overseas, to alert them that you are offering fool's gold, that clean energy is cheaper and lacks coal's polluting and corrupting ways. You will find no resting place.
This latest plan - perhaps your most audacious cynical ploy to date - will fail as surely as your efforts to build 150 new coal plants in the United States.
Posted by: Heather M at 11:18AM PST on October 1, 2010
This is a guest post by Ann Mesnikoff, Director of the Sierra Club Green Transportation Campaign.
Can America's new cars average at lest 60 miles per gallon in 2025? Yes! This is what Sierra Club has been calling for as part of Go60mpg.org.
Today Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood gave a strong start to the process of setting average fuel economy and global warming pollution standards for cars in model years 2017-2025.
Yes, there are details and more details and we won't have a final standard until the summer of 2012 - but the story today is that there are multiple paths the industry can take to achieve an average fuel economy of 62 miles per gallon in 2025.
No surprises here - better engines, transmissions, high strength and lighter weight materials, hybrids and electric vehicles are all technologies that automakers can use to continue to increase fuel efficiency and reduce global warming pollution for cars and trucks. With higher gas prices always on the horizon, making cars go farther on a gallon of gas is a no-brainer.
The oil disasters this past summer in the Gulf and the Kalamazoo River only add urgency to setting strong standards to help break our dirty and dangerous addiction to oil and slash global warming pollution.
We are not talking about doing this overnight. The standards that kick in between 2012-2016 will be reducing emissions of global warming pollution by 5% each year between 2012 and 2016. So, getting to at least 60 mpg in 2025 is a matter of reducing pollution by 6% per year.
Model year 2025 cars will save nearly twice the oil over their lifetimes than aiming low.
Again, no surprises - the auto industry is already saying aiming for 60 mpg is too much. Dave McCurdy at the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers went so far as to say:
"Instead of plucking numbers out of the air, we should base policy on science and expert reviews of factors like affordability of technology, availability of low-carbon fuels and the state of the electric infrastructure."This is about putting technology to work. We have more faith in the automakers than they do. That's nothing new - this is an industry that has said no to seat belts, air bags, air pollution controls, and for decades they said no to raising fuel economy. And, let's not forget the tens of billions of tax payer dollars that went into to bailing these naysayers out.
Our colleagues at Union of Concerned Scientists and Natural Resources Defense Council looked at technologies and costs and found that 60 mpg is not only achievable - but it also will save consumers $101 billion dollars in 2025 (PDF). EPA and the Department of Transportation have looked at the technology and the costs and made clear 60 mpg is not only achievable, but it will save far more than the technologies cost.
In fact, the agencies show that consumers could see net savings of $5,700 and $7,400 at the pump. These are savings after recovering the cost $2,800- $3,500 cost of technologies. These are dollars that stay in our economy instead going to pay for foreign oil. That's a good deal!
A recent poll shows that Americans overwhelming support getting to 60 mpg by 2025. The Administration should follow through with proposing and finalizing a 6% annual decrease in global warming pollution for 2017-2025 vehicles.
Posted by: Heather M at 10:51AM PST on October 1, 2010
This is a guest post by Louis "Cuffie" Winkler, an intern for the Blue Green Alliance.
After the launch of its Green Sneakers Project last spring, Maine Partners for Cool Communities (MPCC) is gearing up for a big fall weekend, supporting eight communities that are taking action to champion local clean energy solutions.
Earlier this month, Green Sneakers community leaders reached more than 500 households in northeastern Maine with high efficiency CFL bulbs, home energy performance information and money saving coupons. Catholic leaders in the town of Fort Kent handed out Green Sneakers energy saving kits to parishioners while high school Key Club volunteers traveled door to door distributing kits and talking to their neighbors about saving energy and combating global warming.
Speaking with residents at their home, volunteers explained how both small and large home improvements can dramatically reduce energy consumption and energy bills. They discussed how community-wide action can reduce foreign oil dependence, cut pollution and contribute to a cleaner, cooler planet.
Green Sneakers volunteers offer initial home efficiency assessments. Interested homeowners are encouraged to consider the benefits of a professional, comprehensive home efficiency assessment and upgrade.
Green Sneakers helps homeowners interested in larger retrofit projects connect with qualified Energy Advisors at Efficiency Maine (EM) Home Energy Savings Program which manages state and federal efficiency rebates and incentives available to Maine residents, oversees auditor and contractor certification and ensures quality efficiency retrofit work is done by trained professionals.
A September event in support of Green Sneakers action in Lewiston, Maine, showcased Lewiston Mayor Laurent F. Gilbert, Sr., Auburn Mayor Richard Gleason and State Senator Margaret Craven in addition to bringing together faith, environmental and public health leaders. Representatives of Maine Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins also attended.
Maine Partners for Cool Communities (MPCC) includes the American Lung Association of Maine, Maine Council of Churches, Maine Energy Investment Corp., Physicians for Social Responsibility, Maine chapter and the Sierra Club, Maine Chapter.
Sierra Club is working with national and local partners to jumpstart home performance markets that create good family-supporting jobs for local residents.
Posted by: Heather M at 8:23AM PST on September 16, 2010
This is a guest Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign blog post written by Gabriel DeRita, a Sierra Club Communications Apprentice. Also, follow today's EPA coal ash public hearing in Chicago via our @SierraClubLive and @SierraClubIL Twitter accounts.
The area around Surry County, Virginia, is already home to some sinister projects, including several major coal ash disposal sites and Michael Vick's infamous dog fighting operation. One of the disposal sites is the local golf course, the Battlefield Golf Club. The green is sculpted with 1.5 million tons of coal fly-ash.
Now a major Virginia power provider, the Old Dominion Electric Cooperative (ODEC), wants to site a 1500 mega watt coal plant, accompanied by several hundred acres of ash disposal sites, along the Blackwater River in Surry.
This project, if completed, will be the largest coal-fired power plant in Virginia. Its coal ash will be stored in several landfill areas around the plant. If the power plant itself falls through, ODEC representatives have indicated an option of developing the site as an exclusive coal ash landfill.
Executives announced on Wednesday, September 8, that the project deadline is being pushed back from 2016 to 2020, citing concerns over pending federal regulations and lagging electricity demand. Though ODEC remains committed to pursuing the project, the delay comes as a welcome relief to local residents, and backs up arguments made by environmental and community groups that there is no pressing need for coal-fired power from such a massive plant.
Local residents like Betsy Shepard, mother of two, have been fighting ODEC tooth and nail since 2008, and the announcement comes as a major vindication of their efforts. Shepard is a busy full-time mom, but found the time to take a leading role in her community's fight to curb the march of coal ash contamination.
"I had no intentions of taking such an active role in the fight, but as is often the case in small communities, one has to step up and lend a hand when there is a need," said Shepard.
Posted by: Heather M at 1:31PM PST on September 15, 2010
This is a guest post by Rachel Butler, National Conservation Organizer for the Sierra Club Green Transportation Team.
On Labor Day 2010, President Obama made an announcement unveiling preliminary plans for transportation reform and spending to boost the economy. The president's announcement is a step in the right direction-- transportation reform can't come too soon for our broken transportation system and lagging economy.
However, the President's announcement leaves many details yet to be resolved, and entrenched interests will be fighting for continuation of the status quo. This is the beginning of a long push ahead on transportation reform.
We have a lot of work ahead of us to create a 21st-century transportation system that ends our dependence on oil. To highlight the extent of our transportation and oil problem in the United States, check out these mind-blowing facts:
Add your voice by joining the Sierra Club's Transportation Activists as we work for a 21st century transportation system in the United States that moves us beyond oil.
Posted by: Heather M at 7:42AM PST on September 15, 2010
We've got a Sierra Club staffer in today's House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure hearing on that devastating Enbridge oil spill up in Michigan from earlier this summer. Follow her tweets at Twitter.com/SierraClubLive for real time updates.
You can also watch the hearing on the web via the House Committee's website.
This July spill dumped more than one million gallons of crude into the Kalamazoo River. To learn more about this oil spill in Michigan, check out the Michigan Sierra Club's website.
Above photo of the Enbridge spill taken by Lucas Evans of the Michigan Sierra Club. More photos here.
Posted by: Bruce Nilles at 10:29AM PST on September 14, 2010
You've seen our push against toxic coal ash continue over the past few months as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) seeks public comment on how to regulate coal ash. Our push continues this week with the unveiling of a new coal ash video we produced and a Facebook application. Take a look at the video first:
Posted by: Gabriel Derita at 9:26AM PST on September 10, 2010
In a diplomatic visit turned tar sands marathon, Nancy Pelosi was in Ottawa yesterday with other top democratic officials, including Ed Markey, to meet with industry and environmental groups following their dinner with Canadian premieres from Alberta, Saskatchewan and Quebec last night.
Her meetings included face time with three top Canadian environmental activists, and two tribal leaders from the Chipewyan and Athabascan First Nations. As the speaker and top lawmakers weigh the decision to approve or deny the Keystone XL pipeline, the critical meeting with those directly affected by tar sands provided an on the ground account of just how damaging tar sands can be. Speaker Pelosi was particularly moved by the presentation from Allan Adam, chief of the Athabasca First Nations, who spoke of the downstream health problems and increased cancer rates his tribe is suffering as a direct result of tar sands pollution.
These real stories are stronger than any Alberta public relations campaign can ever be, and Albertan premiere Ed Stelmach knows it. He was reportedly on the defensive at their dinner meeting Wednesday night in his attempts to paint the tar sands industry in a more flattering light.
After the presentations, the speaker’s told environmental and tribal leaders that “taking action on climate change was a major priority”, and both Markey and Pelosi affirmed their personal commitment to reducing our damaging reliance on fossil fuels.
According to Graham Saul, director of Climate Action Canada, Pelosi “..spoke very eloquently about the moral imperative for action on climate change in terms of how we owe it to future generations, and she spoke clearly about God’s creation and the need to respect and honor that.” (quote from Globe & Mail)
As the speaker and her fellow leaders return to Washington in the coming weeks, we hope these meetings will impress upon them the need to take decisive action to stop the poisoning of Canadian air and water, mitigate the risk to American communities from continued pipeline spills, and work to end our reliance on fossil fuels by saying no to the Keystone XL pipeline.
Posted by: Gabriel Derita at 1:00PM PST on August 27, 2010
Update 9/3: Gap, Levi- Strauss and Timberland have not specifically committed to eliminating “tar sands oil” from their fuel sources, but each have committed in their own way to reducing the environmental and social impacts of their fuels. Any action to reduce environmental and social impacts of fuel choices must consider the significant impacts of tar sands, and give preference to suppliers who avoid it, but these companies are not specifically targeting tar sands fuel for a boycott. Walgreens, however, has made an explicit move away from tar sands oil, and has directed its suppliers to source non-tar sands fuels.
Original Post: The pen is mightier than the sword, but the purse may sometimes be mightier than the pen. Major US corporations are adding market pressure to the growing wave of opposition against tar sands expansion, giving tar sands producers a fresh reason to consider the consequences of their poor environmental street cred.
Whole Foods Market and Bed Bath and Beyond joined a list of six major Fortune 500 companies, including Gap, Timberland and Levi Strauss, committed to reducing the environmental impact of their fuel sources. Walgreens also recently announced it will avoid purchasing tar sands oil to fuel its distribution network.
Federal Express also voiced concerns over the ‘environmental and social impacts’ of the fuel it sources, and committed to address them. Being the dirtiest fuel on earth, tar sands oil certainly makes the short list for these categories.
These companies are throwing the weight of their purchasing power behind the criticism of tar sands and the Keystone XL expressed by many Americans, including written letters from thousands of citizens, fifty members of Congress, and critique from major federal agencies like the EPA.
Forest Ethics, who organized the boycott campaign (and other successful efforts like it), says this is only the beginning, with a total of 13 companies expected to announce tar sands boycotts by the end of the year.
For an industry aggressively pushing to secure a leading role in the US energy market, businesses labeling tar sands oil as a “brand risk” is a major blow to the tar sands industry and its destructive practices.
As the old business adage goes, the customer is always right- and as the number one consumer of tar sands crude, US corporations and consumers need to be taking a stronger stance against products like tar sands that carry unacceptably high social and environmental costs. If consumers continue to demand a cleaner energy future, those who hope to profit from the vast American economy will have no choice but to clean up or clear out.
Posted by: Bruce Nilles at 11:45AM PST on August 19, 2010
by Bruce Nilles, Director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign
Contrary to the impression you may have been left with after reading a recent Associated Press piece about the future (or lack thereof) of coal in this country, the reign of “King Coal” is ending.
Though the AP piece makes some good points (specifically, noting that “the process [for producing electricity from coal] has changed little since Thomas Edison built the first plant in 1882” and that even after $3.4 billion in stimulus spending, there is currently “no way of capturing carbon” from coal-fired power plants), the idea that coal-fired power is expanding as opposed to rapidly declining is inaccurate.
Just a few years ago, “King Coal” was hoping to build 151 new coal-fired power plants while the Bush Administration’s coal-friendly federal regulators were “on the job.” This was a troubling idea for many reasons. From the mine, to the plant, to the ash pond, coal is our dirtiest and most dangerous energy source. It causes four of the five leading causes of death in the United States, including heart disease, cancer, stroke and chronic lower respiratory diseases. It destroys mountains and releases toxic mercury into communities. The carbon pollution emitted by coal-fired power plants is responsible for more than 30% of our country’s total global warming pollution.
In response to this Coal Rush, the Sierra Club in 2005 launched a nationwide Beyond Coal campaign with a broad swath of allies to block these plans.
As of today, the Sierra Club and our allies have blocked 129 new coal plants from being constructed, keeping well more than 530 million tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. No new coal plants have broken ground since 2008 and clean energy is filling the vacuum, with record amounts of both wind and solar power projects up and running in 2009. Yes, there were some coal plants that sneaked through and came online in 2008 with enormous help from the Bush Administration’s coal-friendly permitting process. That number of coal plants, however, is a fraction of what was planned and represents significantly less than the growth in clean energy during the same time period- growth that would not have been possible if the energy market had been swamped with filthy coal. The wind industry alone added 8,300 MW to the grid in 2008- more than five times the 1,400 MW of new coal added to the grid that year.
Make no mistake, the Coal Rush is over. The costs of the plants that did make it through should serve as a reminder than no clean energy project has ever taken five years to build and witnessed 100 percent cost overruns. The steps to finally move America beyond coal have begun.
We are now in phase two of our efforts to dethrone King Coal, get our energy infrastructure out of the 19th century and build a modern and clean power sector. This phase involves retiring and replacing the oldest and dirtiest coal plants and opening up more market share for clean energy. Since January 2009, more than 8,300 megawatts of existing coal (about 16 average-sized coal plants) have been slated for retirement in the next decade. The tens of thousands of dedicated grassroots activists who first help to stop the coal rush are now busy phasing out outdated existing coal plants.
While we have made significant progress over the past few years, our work is clearly far from done.
It was an outrage when earlier this summer, corporate polluters relied on a minority of Senators to block action to cut coal plant pollution when conservationists, labor, veterans, communities of faith, small businesses and everyday citizens all agreed it was the right thing to do. Failing to address this problem puts all the collective future of our country, and our planet, in jeopardy. Scientists tell us that to avert runaway global warming we need to phase out coal plants in less than two decades.
Ending coal’s contribution to global warming, as well as the smog that plagues most of our cities, is a top priority for the Sierra Club, and we will continue to fight for the necessary changes in federal policy. With Congress stymied by a minority of Senators, we are engaged in other venues to address the litany of serious problems caused by coal.
Lisa Jackson at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is busy working on enforcing clean air and clean water laws designed to end the regulatory loopholes too-long exploited by King Coal. After eight years of Bush Administration backsliding and inaction, the safeguards seek to put public welfare back on top of the priority list. Among those safeguards are efforts such as:
Strong regulation of each step of coal’s dirty and dangerous life-cycle (from the reckless mining practices to the hazardous disposal of the toxic byproduct of the waste left over when coal is burned) is not only going to level the playing field between coal and clean energy, it is also to usher in a new era of American energy.
We know that continuing our dependence on coal chains us to dirty energy and prevents us from making the changes we need to bring about a clean, secure energy future. If our economy is to be revitalized by the clean-energy industry, if the health and safety of families is to be considered, if we want to have any hope of stopping the worst effects of climate change, King Coal’s reign cannot continue.
We have made unprecedented progress in recent years to prevent new coal plants and massive amounts of new pollution for decades into the future, but our work is not done. Whether it is pursuing federal legislation that will cut carbon pollution or pushing and supporting Lisa Jackson as she enforces the law to protect public health and our communities, we will continue the fight to move our country beyond coal.
Posted by: Heather M at 10:09AM PST on August 12, 2010
There's plenty of news about coal hitting the wires today - first up is President Obama's Interagency Task Force on Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) - which includes the Environmental Protection Agency and the Dept. of Energy - today "delivered a series of recommendations to the president today on overcoming the barriers to the widespread, cost-effective deployment of CCS within 10 years."
If you're thinking, "Blech, so-called 'clean coal,'" you're not alone. We agree that coal is never clean. In any case, the report's main findings and recommendations include:
CCS is Viable: There are no insurmountable technical, legal, institutional, or other barriers to the deployment of this technology.For a more in-depth look at the recommendations, check out this Associated Press article.
Here's a new article from Nature that shows one major reason why coal is never clean - mountaintop removal coal mining. From the article:
On 3 August, researchers at the Ecological Society of America conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, presented what they say is the first conclusive evidence of a direct link between this type of mining and environmental damage. Their research has teased apart the effects of mountain-top mining and urbanization on local water quality in West Virginia, and found that even relatively small mining operations can cause serious harm to ecosystems.Meanwhile in Oregon, check out this article from Northwest Labor Press about the Boardman Coal Plant near Portland (oddly, the headline for this story is for another article, but the article is the one you want to read) It's a thoughtful article covering a common theme in the clean energy battle - jobs.
Finally, some great news about moving beyond coal in Ohio. Our Ohio Beyond Coal team members living in the Cleveland area have been working hard to get the Medical Center Company to not renew the permit for its aging coal-fired power plant that operates right near a hospital and several universities.
This week was a hearing about the company's attempt to renew the plant's permit, but right before then the Medical Center Company released this statement saying it would move beyond coal! That's some great community organizing from a neighborhood that's concerned about the local air quality - shows that people working together can achieve their goals.
Community members still packed the hearing to speak out for clean energy. Check out this great video that Sierra Club staffer Mattie Reitman took of the speakers at the hearing.
Posted by: Bruce Nilles at 10:27AM PST on August 10, 2010
Yesterday and today are code orange unhealthy air alert days in the Washington, DC, region where I live. The 95+ degree temperatures and excessive ground-level ozone create extremely unhealthy air – especially for kids, senior citizens, and people with pre-existing health conditions.
These aren't the first days this summer where we've had these warnings, and I know that the Washington, DC, region is not alone in its unhealthy air warnings. Temperatures are soaring across the U.S. - and while one major source of air pollution is vehicles, the other major cause is burning coal for energy.
And with this comes new research that poor air quality days aren't just a struggle for your lungs, they're just as tough on your heart. This is news from the combined efforts of the American Lung Association and the American Heart Association, who are reminding us that while some pollution levels may be decreasing, we’re learning that air pollution is actually much worse for us than originally thought.
From one article on this research:
While risks to individuals are small and are dwarfed by risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure and obesity, the overall effect on the public is big, says Robert Brook, a cardiologist at the University of Michigan and lead author of the report.Some in Congress want to gut EPA's Clean Air Act powers - and yet air pollution levels are so dangerous that these unhealthy air warnings recommend that kids should not be outside. Kids should not be outside in August? Right. Summer vacation is still in full force, so kids are outside, and that means they are at risk of permanent lung damage because the oil and coal companies are holding congress hostage.
We are literally killing ourselves by burning coal, and yet the coal industry continues to fight against the Clean Air Act and any safeguards that might prevent them from spewing their pollutants into the air.
This is shameful. The coal industry would rather make money than clean itself up.
We must support clean, renewable energy sources that don't pollute the air and contribute to unhealthy air warnings when temperatures climb. Coal-fired power plants spew millions of tons of pollution into the air ever year, which spreads from state to state and causes numerous health issues.
Thankfully, EPA is acting to help states be good neighbors with the proposed 'Good Neighbor / Transport' rule that will systematically and efficiently cut pollution from dozens of coal plants that would otherwise spread across the country. The rule is intended to help downwind states achieve EPA's national ambient air quality standards for ozone and fine particles.
We applaud this common sense approach by Lisa Jackson and EPA to protect public health and help states clean up their air efficiently and cost-effectively.
You can make your support heard for this rule at one of the three upcoming public hearings (first one is next week), or by submitting your own comment.
Posted by: Gabriel Derita at 12:20PM PST on August 6, 2010
Amid two massive oil spills, public pressure was apparently high enough to force TransCanada to back down from its permit request to pump the world’s most toxic crude at over-zealous pressures. In doing so, the company made a telling statement about the risks their pipelines pose, acknowledging their proposal was unsafe from the start.
But they made sure to allow for a “request for a special permit in the future”. TransCanada is making a smart PR move, because pumping at lower pressures still allows the company to meet its prospective deliveries while making them appear sensitive to safety concerns.
They stood by their commitment to use thinner-than-standard steel, a move that will expose American communities and vital aquifers to increased risk, but will save the company close to a billion dollars. There's no sign of shying from that proposal -- actually building an up-to-par pipe would provide the minimum safeguards against another disaster, but a fraction of their profits are on the line!
The Enbridge pipeline disaster in Michigan spill is the latest of more than 2,500 significant pipeline incidents that have occurred in the United States over the last ten years, resulting in 161 fatalities and 576 injuries. There are no safe pipelines, and TransCanada knows it.
This thinly veiled publicity stunt is yet another attempt by big oil companies to dupe the American people into believing their practices are safe. We have been reassured time and again by companies like BP and Enbridge, only to see the all-too-real consequences of their negligence in the form of devastating toxic spills.
We cannot allow another oil company to placate us again with a bait-and-switch ploy at appearing ‘safer’, while simultaneously forging ahead with risky practices that protect nothing but their profits. TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline is a risky project that will undermine well-paying, green jobs at home, and expose 27 percent of America’s irrigated farmland to oil contamination.
We cannot afford another pipeline disaster, and we don't need a multi-billion dollar project that directly undermines America's clean energy future. We must stand up and tell the State Department that another risky pipeline carrying the world’s dirtiest crude will never be in the national interest.
Main Switchboard for State Department:
Posted by: Paul Rauber at 1:32PM PST on August 5, 2010
There are no end of scoundrels to blame for the United States' failure to address global warming: Climate-change deniers, obstructionists in the Senate, an apathetic public, even the recession. But looking at the big picture, director of the Centre for European Studies Daniel Gros finds one villain that stands above the rest.
"Why has every attempt to set prices for global carbon emissions failed?" he asks. "The answer can be found in one word: 'coal'."
His essay, "King Coal's Pyrrhic Victory," is short, so instead of summarizing it I'll just urge you to give it a quick read. His conclusion is not very optimistic. We failed after Kyoto, we failed after Copenhagen, and the chances of future failure are multiplying by the day.
Posted by: Paul Rauber at 1:14PM PST on August 3, 2010
It's official: China has now surpassed the United States as the world's largest consumer of energy by more than doubling its consumption over the last decade. Since 2000, U.S. per capita energy use has actually declined, while Chinese per capita use has nearly doubled. Even so, we still use four times as much energy as the average Chinese.
This is what it looks like summed up in graph form from the International Energy Agency. Bars are national energy use, dotted lines per capita use. It will take a long time for that red line and that blue line to meet.
Posted by: Heather M at 10:33AM PST on August 3, 2010
This is a guest post from Chip Gaul, intern for the Sierra Club's Good Jobs Retrofit campaign.
During the peak days of summer, Portland's richly diverse Cully Neighborhood enjoyed a cool breeze as residents gathered for a neighborhood ice cream social last Thursday. The Metropolitan Alliance for Common Good (MACG), Sierra Club (Oregon Chapter), LiUNA, and the City of Portland organized the event to launch the neighborhood phase of the city's retrofit program, Clean Energy Works Portland (CEWP).
Local and state representatives and Cully Association of Neighbors' Rich Gunderson spoke about the pilot program that helps residents pay for improvements to their home's energy performance. Cully Neighborhood's goal is to get at least 100 retrofits completed as part of the city's overall 500-home pilot.
Twenty-five communities (cities and states) across the country won Retrofit Ramp-up awards to improve the energy efficiency of homes and businesses. Portland was awarded $20 million in April. These programs don't just have the potential to cut carbon emissions and shrink utility bills, they can also create the quality green jobs that build a new clean energy economy. In September, CEWP created a workforce agreement between the city, contractors, and members of the community.
As these programs expand, more homeowners will pay less to keep their homes comfortable and energy bills affordable on the hottest and coldest days of the year. Stay posted for more updates in Portland and other cities planting the seeds to green economies and sustainable communities.
Posted by: Heather M at 8:19AM PST on August 3, 2010
While previous years had it coming down the East Coast and into Washington, DC, this year's Brita Climate Ride will hit the West Coast. The Climate Ride is a huge bike ride aimed at supporting action on climate change. Here are the details from Climate Ride organizer David Kroodsma:
Join the National Bike Ride to Support Climate and Energy SolutionsDavid also has a great write-up on Huffington Post about how the event will go and why you should join him. You should also watch this video from last year's ride.
Posted by: Heather M at 9:09AM PST on July 28, 2010
On the heels of yesterday's second oil accident off Louisiana's coast, emergency workers in Michigan are responding to another major slick caused by a ruptured pipe. This oil spill of more than 800,000 gallons of crude (so far) is affecting some 16 miles of the Kalamazoo River (again, so far). Here's a photo of that mess, from Brandy Baker of the Detroit News.
This quote from the Detroit News article sticks out to me:
"We have negatively impacted your lives and made a mess of your properties and waterways," said Patrick Daniel, Enbridge president and CEO. "We're now working around the clock to minimize the impact of that and clean up the area."And yet the oil industry says spills and accidents are few and far between, huh?
Posted by: Bruce Nilles at 8:29AM PST on July 22, 2010
This post was co-written by Lena Moffitt, Washington Representative for the Sierra Club Dirty Fuels Campaign.
This week the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) blasted the State Department's draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline - asserting that the EIS is "woefully deficient" because "the Draft EIS does not provide the scope or detail of analysis necessary to fully inform decision makers and the public, and we recommend that additional information and analysis be provided."
The Keystone XL is a massive pipeline designed to carry tar sands oil from Canada into the U.S., and we've long called its EIS inadequate. Now our nation's environmental watchdog is putting its weight and expertise behind that assessment.
EPA is charged with protecting Americans' health and safety, and its concerns about this pipeline underscore and validate what Americans are saying across the country.
EPA is demanding more than 30 additional pieces of information needed based on grave concerns such as "the Draft EIS does not fully identify and address the potential for disproportionately high and adverse human health and environmental effects on minority, low-income and Tribal populations."
EPA also raises serious concerns about the threats tar sands pose to the health and safety of American communities, which underscores the need to proceed with caution when it comes to making a decision of this magnitude about the country's energy future.
And given what we've witnessed in the Gulf of Mexico, where rubbers stamps for the oil industry were all too common, we welcome this call for a more thorough and rigorous approach to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.
Here's just a partial list of what EPA is asking of the State Department, given the woefully deficient consideration of these environmental and human impacts:
- A broader assessment of the need for this pipeline, including a "robust analysis of options for meeting national energy and climate policy objectives";That list alone underscores the high risk and hefty cost of pursuing toxic tar sands oil at the expense of America’s clean energy future.
We applaud EPA's scrutiny.
All of the additional analysis requested by EPA must be prepared to allow for a robust consideration of the impacts of this pipeline, and whether or not is it in our nation's interest.
And because of an executive order, these requests from EPA mean that the Keystone XL plan cannot go through until the Department of State can deliver completed analysis addressing all of these points.
We have said all along, an open and honest dialogue about our energy future leads to the conclusion that we should say no to this filthy project. Instead, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton should say yes to clean energy, yes to clean air, and yes to an oil-free future.
Posted by: Heather M at 7:19AM PST on July 22, 2010
This is a guest post from Chip Gaul, Intern for the Sierra Club Good Jobs Retrofit Campaign.
In April, twenty-five cities and states received “Retrofit Ramp-up”awards from the U.S. Department of Energy’s stimulus funds (a competitive grant under the Energy Efficiency and Community Block Grant Program). These grants are beefing up existing programs and new initiatives set to launch this fall and winter that allow households and building owners to improve the energy efficiency performance of their homes and businesses.
Posted by: Paul Rauber at 3:09PM PST on July 21, 2010
So how come we've just had the largest environmental disaster in decades on top of record hot temperatures in much of the country and we still can get a decent climate bill past Congress? According to Jason Zengerle in New York magazine, it's because environmentalists are too nice:
Given that the facts are on our side, there's no reason that rational arguments for action on climate change can't also be direct and emotional. For example, take this new study from our colleagues at the Natural Resources Defense Council showing the 1,100 U.S. counties that could be at dire risk of water shortages in the next 50 years because of global warming.
That's a lot of thirsty children and grandchildren. If we can make the climate debate about them, we win.
Posted by: Bruce Nilles at 10:43AM PST on July 15, 2010
Today I'll focus on yet another community suffering from coal's pollution - but this community is a little bit larger, and it's on the front end of an emerging trend. The city is Chicago and it's starting what could be a national movement to clean up dirty energy in the inner city.
Some of our oldest and dirtiest coal plants are located in major cities across the U.S.; and they are often located in areas with other major pollution sources, exposing residents of these densely populated areas to higher levels of harmful pollution than their neighbors.
What's happening now in Chicago is just the beginning as residents of these communities organize and rise up against these environmental injustices, finding ways to clean up their air and water.
In Chicago, more people live near the city's two old coal plants than any other coal plant in the nation. The plants, located on the southwest side of Chicago, cause 40 pre-mature deaths, 500 emergency room visits and 2,800 asthma attacks every year. Chicago also has one of the highest asthma rates in the country, and the city's asthma hospitalization rate is nearly double the national average. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, on average, one out of seven school-aged children has asthma; in a number of Chicago-area neighbors, upwards to one out of three children suffer from asthma.
As such, community groups are working to clean up the two coal-fired power plants: Fisk and Crawford - both owned by Midwest Generation. And it goes beyond their asthma-causing air pollution. The Fisk plant produces more than 1.78 million tons of CO2 annually. The Crawford plant produces more than 3.18 million tons of CO2 annually.
Today in the Windy City, more than 50 local and national organizations, joined by local community members and elected leaders kicked off a ward by ward effort.
"Like many working-class communities of color around the country, Pilsen (a Chicago neighborhood) is inundated with multiple pollution sources, the worst of which is the Fisk plant," said Jerry Mead-Lucero, member of Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization (PERRO), "Your race or class should not determine whether or not you have a healthy environment in which to live."
For years, local organizations such as Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO) and PERRO have been champions for cleaning the Crawford and Fisk coal plants. Then the Chicago Clean Power Coalition was formed early this year, and support for the groups has grown as more families living in the affected communities get sick of the coal plants' pollution.
The groups are working to pass the Clean Power Ordinance introduced by Chicago Alderman Joe Moore in April. The ordinance will require the coal plant operators to reduce particulate matter pollution (soot) from the coal plants by 90% and global warming pollution (CO2) pollution by 50%, resulting in significant health benefits for neighboring communities. The ordinance currently has nine cosponsors and the coalition has collected close to 1,000 signatures and letters from citizens asking their aldermen to support the ordinance.
"We are looking to the City Council and Mayor Daley to not only to protect the health of its citizens, but also lead the country towards a clean energy future," said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune, who was at the kick off event.
This Chicago event is just another example of action against coal and for clean energy. All over the U.S. we've seen local residents uniting to protect public and environmental health from the massive pollution spewed out from coal-fired power plants. Together we can make these changes.
Posted by: Heather M at 10:31AM PST on July 14, 2010
Capitol Hill newspaper The Hill obtained a new draft of a climate bill from Senators John Kerry and Joe Lieberman, although the two senators aren't "confirming its validity." This is on top of another utility-only bill that's been circulating since Tuesday.
From E&E Daily:
Reid’s pledge, however, left major questions about the scope of the utility plan and steered clear of any details. He declined even to use the words "carbon" or "greenhouse gases," vowing instead to target "pollution."
It's getting tense on Capitol Hill with all this climate and energy legislation wrangling. Stay tuned!
Posted by: Heather M at 12:50PM PST on July 8, 2010
The momentum against bringing Canada's dirty tar sands oil into the U.S. via the proposed TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline continues.
Today across the nation are a series of rallies and public events bringing attention to this dirty and dangerous option, and the need for the U.S. State Department to not approve TransCanada's permit for this pipeline. The events are organized by Corporate Ethics International, Friends of the Earth, Indigenous Environmental Network, National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club.
The background on this dirty tar sands pipeline: In an effort to save money, TransCanada has applied for a safety waiver for the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline that would allow the company to operate with thinner pipe and higher pressures than standard operating procedure; they also lack a public emergency plan in the event of a leak and have not demonstrated that emergency responders have been identified, contracted or trained.
These rallies come on the heels of last Tuesday's final public hearing on the pipeline (which I blogged about here)
I attended the rally today in Washington, D.C., outside the Canadian Embassy, where many gathered wearing orange shirts that said, "Oil Spill Prevention Team" on the front and "We Want Clean Energy Now!" on the back.
One of the rally speakers was Paul Siemens (pictured below), a rancher from Draper, South Dakota, whose own land would be crossed by this pipeline if it's built.
"Is South Dakota a state of no consequence? The State Department and TransCanada want you to think so," said Draper, noting that the Draft Environmental Impact Statement from the State Department acted as if a spill in rural areas would be no big deal.
The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) brought in a celebrity, too - former "ER" star actress Gloria Reuben - who was born in Canada but is now an American citizen.
"These mine pits (where they get the tar sands) are so massive you can see them from space," said Reuben (pictured below), who serves on the NWF board of directors.
"Enough is enough - Secretary Clinton, we do not want any more fast-tracking for these industries," she added, pointing to the BP oil disaster and the Massey coal mine tragedy.
The ralliers then marched from the Canadian Embassy (seen below in the background, where employees gathered on the steps to see what we were up to) over to the White House, carrying signs and chanting for clean energy and against tar sands oil.
You can learn more about the fight against tar sands on our Dirty Fuels page and on our coalition website. And be sure to join the "Say No to Tar Sands" Group here on Climate Crossroads.
Posted by: Bruce Nilles at 11:14AM PST on July 8, 2010
How's this for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fulfilling its role to protect environmental and public health: On Tuesday, EPA proposed a rule that would prevent between 14,000 and 36,000 premature deaths annually.
The Transport Rule would set stronger emissions standards for the dangerous air pollution emitted from coal-fired power plants in the eastern United States. This new rule would replace the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR), which had been struck down by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in 2008.
While a thorough review and comment period remains to be completed, this is a positive step forward for people who want clean air.
The harmful pollution coal-fired power plants emit into the air does not just endanger people in the immediate vicinity of the plant. Pollution from coal plants is carried downwind, endangering people throughout the entire eastern United States.
This rule addresses the reality that dangerous pollution doesn’t recognize state borders. Just as the oil gusher has now hit every Gulf state, the pollution from coal-fired power plants drifts downwind into people's lungs throughout a region - hence why another way of talking about this rule is as a 'Good Neighbor' rule.
Coupled with other EPA rules, the Transport Rule will achieve a 71% reduction in sulfur dioxide and a 52% reduction in nitrogen oxide from 2005 levels in the states the rule applies to.
These pollutants covered by this rule are precursors to ozone, which is incredibly dangerous to human health. Pollutants like ozone and particulate matter (better known as smog and soot) from coal-fired pollution have been found to cause respiratory illness (including asthma and bronchitis), as well as aggravation of existing cardiovascular disease. It is absolutely essential that EPA do everything in its power to limit the damage these pollutants do to millions of people throughout the United States.
The statistics published with the rule make a very compelling case. According to EPA, the Transport Rule would yield up to $290 billion in annual health benefits, 'including avoiding an estimated 14,000 to 36,000 premature deaths, 23,000 nonfatal heart attacks, 21,000 cases of acute bronchitis, 240,000 cases of aggravated asthma, and 1.9 million days when people miss school or work due to ozone- and particle pollution-related symptoms.'
This is a great step from EPA to clean up the air. We will stay engaged throughout this process to ensure people's health and welfare are protected.
Posted by: Brian F. at 11:16AM PST on July 7, 2010
YouTube sensation and climate advocate Peter Sinclair has a few more great videos to add to the arsenal. His videos are factual, informative, and at times highly entertaining. This first video is about the national security implications in a changing world.
Posted by: Brian F. at 2:06PM PST on July 2, 2010
With no end to BP's oil disaster in sight and July 4 around the corner, the Sierra Club on Wednesday planted 10,000 flags by the Washington Monument to demand independence -- from oil. For the past two weeks we've been posting some helpful hints here to lessen your own dirty energy usage -- which will be particularly appropriate this holiday weekend when we celebrate our country's break from the British. So let's review!
-- Drive less or not at all! Americans burn 378 million gallons of gasoline a day, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency. BP and other oil companies do not want to see that number to go down. Show them who's in charge. Take public transit. And dust off your bike and/or increase your car's mileage.
-- Purchase local produce and eat less meat. Challenge yourself to one meatless day a week. It'd vastly improve your personal carbon footprint. The meat industry is a major consumer of petroleum. Are you planning to barbecue this weekend? Click here.
-- Consider a "staycation." And for those of you who are hitting the road, there are probably plenty of lovely destinations within a 100-mile radius of your home. Visit a park and hike a trail!
You might notice that these suggestions are not anything new. But walking the talk a little at a time will go a long way. And if you're frustrated by the slow political process in Washington, click here to take action. Have a happy and safe long weekend!
Posted by: Brian F. at 2:27PM PST on July 1, 2010
In April, President Obama launched the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative, a new effort to preserve parks and open areas, conserve natural resources, and promote outdoor reaction amid a changing climate. On July 8, federal agencies will hold a “listening session” in Los Angeles and continue to hold sessions throughout the country to collect public feedback for the initiative. Athan Manuel, the Sierra Club’s Director of Lands Protection, answered some of our questions about the initiative and the Sierra Club's Resilient Habitats program.
Q: What are these listening sessions?
A: They are excellent opportunities to tell the Department of Interior what a 21st century land-management plan should be and to push these agencies to keep climate change in mind. When you look at policy in the past, it was always in reaction to railroads, sprawl, oil and gas drilling, and logging. But now we have a more profound threat and that’s climate change.
The listening session is like a public hearing. These agencies really want to hear from the public and make it as much of a grass roots policy as possible.
There are going to be seven or eight sessions across the country after next week's hearing in L.A.: Florida, New York, Colorado, Nebraska, North Carolina, for example. They’ll probably run one or two a week till the end of August. The Interior, the EPA, and the Forest Service will look at the public feedback, put together a report, and base recommendations on what the public has to say. We want to augment that and put forth our vision for Resilient Habitats.
Q: Explain the Sierra Club’s Resilient Habitats program.
A: It’s mainly designed to protect public lands, habitats, species, and resources that are being impacted by climate change. We think this should be prioritized above all other stressers. We need the federal government to recognize that climate change is changing our public lands more than anything in the last 100 years.
The first thing we need to do is reduce our emissions by 80 percent by 2050. Then we need to complement that by funding adaptation programs to climate change’s impacts. Animals are starting to change their migratory patterns. Migration corridors are shifting. So we need to shift or expand the boundaries of these lands accordingly. Animals are moving further and into higher elevations to get away from rising temperatures. There are a lot of changes happening to habitat and species that we need to catch up to and start funding via a cap-and-trade system.
Q: Obama’s initiative is in coordination with other government agencies, like the Department of Defense, Department of Commerce, and Housing and Urban Development, among others. Why?
A: They’re all legitimate and one of the largest managers of public lands is the Department of Defense. These military bases are islands of natural habitat. A lot of animals and plant species have migrated to these places because of sprawl, road building, mining, and oil drilling. They are a huge manager of land and in terms of endangered species -- from the red cockheaded woodpecker to the desert tortoise -- they’ve been very good stewards. They take it seriously. So there’s a lot of overlap between them and what the Department of Interior does. Right now we’re pushing Resilient Habitats with the Department of Interior but we’d love to do more with the DOD.
Q: EPA head Lisa P. Jackson in talking about the initiative has specifically called for more outdoor access, especially for inner city kids and minorities. Can you elaborate?
A: This is one of their three priorities -- getting kids outside and connecting them with hiking and biking. They want to get inner city kids out there who don’t get to leave the city often. And this effort complements the First Lady’s Let's Move initiative to fighting childhood obesity.
The Sierra Club of all the environmental groups is probably best positioned for these efforts because of our Building Bridges to the Outdoors program and getting youth outside, and our Military Families Outdoors program. The Department of Interior in particular is very eager to work with us because they see it as part of their own campaign for the Obama Administration to pursue.
Q: What end result are we hoping for?
A: Some of it's legislative, but mainly we need different land management plans. Current plans don’t talk about climate change at all. Some agencies are ahead of the curve. For example, Fish and Wildlife is recognizing that migratory corridors are changing. So the first step is recommendations for these agencies. And then the next step is probably legislation to fund the work they want to do. Or in the case of one issue like migratory changes -- such as mule deer that are starting to wander on private lands like ranches or farms -- we might have to do some conservation easements and rezoning so that we can adjust the corridors to where the animals are going. The first step is making recommendations and climate-smart management plans.
Q. If you don’t live in L.A. or nearby other cities that these agencies will be visiting to collect public feedback, how do you get yourself heard?
A: The Sierra Club can always make your voice heard. But there is also a public comment page on the web. But the Sierra Club is the best way to do it. That’s my unbiased opinion.
Posted by: Bruce Nilles at 9:27AM PST on July 1, 2010
This post was co-written by Mary Anne Hitt of the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign, who is also a native West Virginian.
On September 21, 2006, grandfather and former coal miner Ed Wiley took the final steps of a 455-mile walk that began in the coalfields of West Virginia and ended in Washington, DC, at the office of Senator Robert Byrd. Ed had made his two-month, one-man pilgrimage to ask Senator Byrd to build a new school for the students of Marsh Fork Elementary, which is located immediately beneath an earthen dam holding back 2.8 billion gallons of coal sludge, next to a dust-spewing coal processing plant, and adjacent to a massive mountaintop removal mining operation.
Senator Byrd, one of the most powerful men in America, personally received Ed at his office. They prayed together, and tears were shed by all. Senator Byrd told Ed that he would do what he could to help, though it meant challenging Massey Energy, the now-notorious coal company that ran the coal operation and insisted the school was perfectly safe. In 2009, Byrd announced his support for moving the school. When Massey initially balked at contributing money for a new school, Byrd blasted the company, stating “This is about companies that blatantly disregard human life and safety because of greed.” He continued,
Such arrogance suggests a blatant disregard for the impact of [Massey's] mining practices on our communities, residents and particularly our children. These are children's lives we are talking about.After Senator Byrd made his statement, most WV leaders quickly followed by announcing their support for a new school. Just a few days ago, the last of the funding was finally secured to build a new school in a safe location for the students of Marsh Fork.
While many may remember Senator Byrd as a supporter of coal at any cost, that view became more nuanced in recent years. As we remember the legacy of Senator Robert Byrd this week, we wanted to note his amazing change of opinion on the issue of burning coal for power. Senator Byrd was one of the coal industry's most strident defenders for most of his long tenure in the Senate, but during his final years he tempered that support and signaled that West Virginia must begin to look at a future beyond coal.
Senator Byrd surprised many - including those of us here at the Sierra Club - with his December 2009 commentary entitled "Coal Must Embrace the Future." While he did continue to tout the importance of coal, he also discussed how the coal industry must wake up and face the new reality facing West Virginia: the majority of Americans and Members of Congress oppose mountaintop removal mining, and the transition to clean energy is not something this coal mining state can afford to ignore. He wrote:
Change has been a constant throughout the history of our coal industry. West Virginians can choose to anticipate change and adapt to it, or resist and be overrun by it. One thing is clear. The time has arrived for the people of the Mountain State to think long and hard about which course they want to choose.Senator Byrd also defended action on global warming - from this quote in his December 2009 piece:
To be part of any solution, one must first acknowledge a problem. To deny the mounting science of climate change is to stick our heads in the sand and say "deal me out." West Virginia would be much smarter to stay at the table.Byrd also refused to support Senate efforts to block the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from addressing global warming. In commenting on one such proposal by Senator Lisa Murkowski to overturn EPA's finding that global warming pollution endangers public health and welfare, Byrd wrote:
The Murkowski "Disapproval Resolution" overturns the "endangerment finding." This in essence is like voting to assert that there is no climate change or global warming going on, and to dismiss scientific facts that already exist.While Senator Byrd continued to support coal until the end, he also recognized that change was inevitable, and that fear-mongering and reactionary politics would only hurt the people of West Virginia.
Following his 2006 meeting with Ed Wiley, Senator Byrd issued this statement:
I admire the determination and dedication that Ed and Debbie Wiley have shown. The Bible teaches that if we have faith of a mustard seed, we can move mountains. I believe that the Wileys have that faith.Since Ed Wiley's walk, countless coalfield residents have traveled to Washington to meet with Senator Byrd, his staff, and other decision makers. As a result, proposals to end mountaintop removal are gaining ground in Congress and in the White House. As we mourn the passing of Senator Byrd, let us remember that heroic acts by ordinary people can move those at the heights of power, and let us continue to demand decision makers work to move us beyond coal and toward a clean energy future.
Posted by: Heather M at 7:18AM PST on June 30, 2010
UPDATED - here are some more photos of the 10,000 flags on the Mall. And Getty Images took some great photos from above as well - Photo 1, Photo 2, Photo 3, Photo 4, Photo 5, and Photo 6. Scroll down to the original entry from this morning - these photos are from our Beyond Oil event where 10,000 flags spelling out "Freedom from Oil" were planted on the Mall in Washington, DC.
Above - Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune (left) and banner holders look back at President Obama's helicopter flies nearby during the press conference.
George Kohl, Senior Director of the Communications Workers of America, speaks at today's Beyond Oil rally.
Iraq War veteran and Truman Security Project CEO Jonathan Powers speaks at today's Beyond Oil rally.
All photos above by Javier Sierra. All photos below by Heather Moyer.
---End of Update - The original Post is Below --
It's not officially Flag Day (that was June 14th), but on the National Mall in Washington, DC, today is a sort of an unofficial flag day.
We've got our Beyond Oil action up and flowing in the wind on the Mall - 10,000 flags that spell out "Freedom from Oil," that volunteers worked late in the night on Tuesday to stake into the ground.
These 10,000 flags represent the more than 50,000 people who took action on our Beyond Oil website asking President Obama to move our country beyond oil.
Glen Besa of the Sierra Club in Virginia took a great video of the flag planting last night, so take a look. (Sorry, the humidity got to our flipcam)
Posted by: Heather M at 7:18AM PST on June 30, 2010
Tuesday was the last public hearing on the proposed TransCanada Keystone XL tar sands pipeline - which would carry toxic tar sands oil from Canada through the American Heartland to Houston.
In an effort to save money, TransCanada has applied for a safety waiver for the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline that would allow the company to operate with thinner pipe and higher pressures than standard operating procedure; they also lack a public emergency plan in the event of a leak and have not demonstrated that emergency responders have been identified, contracted or trained.
So on Tuesday, a big crowd of clean energy advocates rallied before the hearing and then took it inside the U.S. State Department to let their opinions be heard on why this pipeline is a bad choice for our country's energy future and why the State Department's draft Environmental Impact State (DEIS) is flawed.
There were plenty of industry people at the hearing - they'd even signed up for the first 20 speaking spots, but thankfully the State Department rep who was running the hearing recognized that and did his best to alternate between the varying interests.
That means Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune (pictured below) got to speak second, and he did great.
"I am here to officially state for the record that the Draft Environmental Impact Statement grossly underestimates the negative impacts of the Keystone XL pipeline in three critical ways," said Brune.
"First the Draft EIS fails to adequately assess the air and health impacts of refining tar sands in the United States; second, it includes an improper analysis of the global warming pollution of tar sands oil; and third, it fails to assess this pipeline's ability to drive expansion of the environmental 'Armageddon' occurring in Canada."
If you're not familiar with how dirty tar sands are, then you should definitely check out www.DirtyOilSands.org
Tar sands oil contains more sulfur, nitrogen, mercury, lead, nickel, and arsenic than conventional crude oil. All of these pollutants are harmful to human health causing lung and respiratory problems such as bronchitis, asthma, respiratory infections, and decreased lung function. Many of the metals released into the air such as mercury are neurotoxin; and some of the volatile organic compounds emitted by refineries are carcinogenic.
Not to mention that this proposed pipeline would cross the Ogallala Aquifer, which is the source of drinking water for millions of Americans in the Midwest.
In addition to that, both the tar sands industry and the scientific community agree that over its entire lifecycle tar sands oil emits 15 -20% more global warming pollution than the conventional oil we currently use.
Two speaker highlights for me during the hearing were a farmer from Montana and Marty Cobenais of the Indigineous Environmental Network (IEN).
The farmer, Tom Rudolph, said the pipeline will cross his land and he's worried about its safety - especially in regards to the thickness of the pipeline and the lack of emergency safety procedures should something go wrong. "BP's disaster is a warning, we should address the safety," said Rudolph, pictured above.
Then IEN's Cobenais spoke of his travels up and down the pipeline's route through middle America to speak with impacted Native American tribes. He said the majority of the tribes oppose the pipeline.
"Oil is not good for us anymore," he said. "We need to get off it."
Cobenais also brought up the national security issue. "We talk about the national security - well what's more important to us - agriculture or oil? They won't mix for long, especially if there's a spill out there."
Lena Moffitt, Sierra Club Washington Representative for our Dirty Fuels Campaign, said she thought the hearing went well despite the large pro-tar sands attendance.
"The community opposed to increasing our reliance on dirty fuels made a great showing today at the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline hearing," said Moffitt. "We had 13 dedicated activists give testimony in opposition to the pipeline, and one member of Congress submitted written comments for the record (Rep. Mike Quigley, IL-5 will be sending them in electronically).
"Considering how out-funded we are on this fight, and the fact that DC is the hub of industry lobbyists, our showing was great and demonstrated broad opposition to this project and the ecological disaster that is tar sands."
If you weren't able to make it to the hearing, you can still submit a comment opposing this pipeline by taking action right here.
All photos by Heather Moyer except the polar bear one, which was taken by Kelly Trout of Friends of the Earth.
Posted by: Tom V at 11:49AM PST on June 28, 2010
A landmark study by 12 leading ecologists, hydrologists, and engineers concludes that the damage done by mountaintop removal mining (MTR) goes far beyond the already-horrendous practice of blasting off entire mountaintops and burying nearby streams under the rubble, referred to by mining companies as "overburden."
The study, "Mountaintop Mining Consequences," represents "the first attempt to collect and assess the best available science on the potential ecological and human health impacts of mountaintop removal"
[All quotes and graphics that follow are taken from the article Mountains of Controversy by Tim Lucas, of Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment.]
"The current regulatory framework treats mountaintop removal as if it was a local disturbance and ignores any impacts on downstream or downwind ecosystems," says Emily Bernhardt, an assistant professor of biogeochemistry at the Nicholas School, who co-authored the study.
Bernhardt joined eight other Duke faculty members in a 2-year, $1.5 million project to map the extent of mountaintop removal mining in southern West Virginia, and assess its impacts on ecological and human health. Below, Bernhardt (at center) collects water samples with Duke chemist Helen Hsu-Kim and professor of earth and ocean sciences Avner Vengosh.
One example of ecosystem damage the study uncovered was a 2009 fish kill in Dunkard Creek, in the Monongahela Mountains, that extended more than 30 miles downstream of the MTR site. West Virginia state biologists determined it was caused by toxins released by a species of algae normally found only in salt or brackish water. The algae were able to live in a freshwater stream due to significant amounts of mining salts from the MTR operation upstream.
"There's a saying: 'Dilution is the solution to pollution,'" says Bernhardt. "But the more mines we build, especially in the same watershed or on the same headwaters, the less dilution we have."
The Science study cites studies showing that chronic exposure to pollution in mining-contaminated air and water is associated with learning disabilities and lower birth weights in children, and kidney disease, breast cancers, and lung disease in adults. Compare map of mine sites in southern West Virginia, above, with chart showing cancer rates by county, below.
"There are a whole suite of contaminants that are elevated in the water and air," Bernhardt says. "It could be that none of them are over the legal limit, but individually or collectively these contaminants are generating significant chemical stress for organisms living in, or drinking, contaminated water or breathing contaminated air."
Posted by: Bruce Nilles at 11:29AM PST on June 23, 2010
Two reports released this week reveal that when it comes to the bottom line of state budgets, the coal industry costs Tennessee and West Virginia more than it provides.
These reports are among the first to examine actual revenues and expenditures related to coal industry employment, taxes and subsidies in Tennessee and West Virginia. Downstream Strategies produced the reports.
For Tennessee (PDF), the report found that the coal industry contributed just over $1 million to the state budget - less than one-tenth of one percent of the state's total revenue in 2009. That benefit was overwhelmed by the costs imposed by the industry, including state subsidies, regulation, road repair and mine reclamation costs. The bottom line was an approximate net economic loss of $3 million for the people of Tennessee in 2009.
Though coal brings in a bigger percentage of state revenues in West Virginia (PDF), the end result matches that of Tennessee; the $600.7 million in total revenues coal brought to West Virginia was about $97.5 million less than it cost the state to support the industry.
"It should be no surprise - coal is not king in the West Virginia economy, even though our decision makers act as if it is," said Jim Sconyers, chair of the West Virginia Sierra Club. "It is a total outrage that the long-suffering West Virginia taxpayer is forced to pay millions of dollars so the filthy rich coal companies can destroy our roads, mountains and communities."
And so we learn that even beyond the human and environmental health damage the coal industry does, the economic damage is there as well. More reports like these are coming, and one has already been done on Kentucky. (PDF)
We know Tennessee and West Virginia, and all the other states where Big Coal is trying to be king, can do better with clean energy. We don't need to sacrifice our health, our economy and our environment to power our nation.
Be sure to join the Beyond Coal Group on Climate Crossroads.
Posted by: Heather M at 10:42AM PST on June 22, 2010
Time again to update folks on other news that is not BP oil disaster related.
Let's start with coal. On Monday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finally published its proposed coal ash rules in the Federal Register (PDF), meaning they're now taking public comments on the rules. Coal ash is the toxic by-product of burning coal for power, and right now it's not subject to any federal safeguards. Sounds pretty crazy to me to not have safeguards for a substance that contains mercury, selenium, arsenic, lead and many more heavy metals that can harm humans and the environment.
Here's the Little Blue Run Coal Ash Pond that sprawls across the border of West Virginia and Pennsylvania near the Ohio River. Oh yeah, that looks real normal right there. (Photo is courtesy of Google Maps satellite).
So, let us help you send in your public comments to EPA telling them to enact strong federal safeguards on coal ash - take action right here.
Meanwhile, also related to coal, last week the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced it was suspending nationwide permits for mountaintop removal coal mining:
This announcement comes more than a year after a March 2009 U.S. District Court decision ruled these permits illegal.Duke University just published some of its research on mountaintop removal coal mining that came from its January 2010 study that showed mountaintop removal site reclamation barely makes a difference. It's pretty eye-opening, so take a look.
And if you like important energy-related research, the U.S. Green Building Council just teamed up with Harvard University to release the 2010 "State of the Nation's Housing." (PDF) The report "studied the affordability, energy and location efficiency within the existing U.S. housing stock."
Next up, related to our post yesterday talking up the new documentary "Gasland" about natural gas "fracking," EPA announced a series of four public meetings on this controversial process:
In environmental justice news, we just had two of our fantastic EJ organizers get major news hits. In Detroit, our own Rhonda Anderson got this very nice spread in the Detroit Free-Press about impact of excessive industrial pollution on certain neighborhoods in Detroit: Article 1, article 2, and video here.
Our EJ organizer in Texas, Mariana Chew, was profiled in this Latino Magazine piece on the EJ issues in her community.
Finally, in global warming news, we've got two hits for you. First is the news out on the latest study about whether there is a scientific consensus on human-caused global warming - of course there is! Read about this latest study in the NY Times' Green Blog.
And then we've got this Discover magazine blog piece on a melting glacier that may not be melting because of global warming. Science!
Posted by: Brian F. at 3:40PM PST on June 18, 2010
Ask yourself, what would John Muir do? He wouldn’t sit on his duff, that’s for sure. Some of those politicians in Washington, D.C., have an insular view of the world. And they don’t necessarily correlate the BP oil disaster with the need to shift to clean energy and move beyond oil in the next two decades.
Help them connect the dots! Visit the Sierra Club’s Beyond Oil action center, where you can send a message to the president, find information on hosting a Gulf action house party, and get involved locally. On July 4th, you can have the Sierra Club plant a flag in your name for freedom from oil. On Independence Day, the Sierra Club will plant flags at the Washington Monument to represent the demand to end our oil dependency. The Club needs at least 50,000 sign-ups to make it happen. Click here and be one of them.
In addition to thinking nationally, consider what you can do in your area. Write letters to the editorial pages of your local newspapers. Watch what city and county planners are up to. Grist has a great list of ten things that cities can do, for instance, such as building dense housing near public transit, phasing out parking lots, and setting up bike corrals and safe pedestrian spaces.
The disaster in the Gulf of Mexico was caused by BP and its reckless negligence. Ultimately, though, the real long-term solution is up to the American people. Until we demand and get a plan from our leaders for getting off of oil, we shall remain at the mercy of those who extract, refine, and sell it.
Posted by: Heather M at 11:01AM PST on June 18, 2010
Check out Michael Brune talking to Don Lemon about the BP oil disaster on yesterday's Rick Sanchez show on CNN.
Posted by: Brian F. at 12:17PM PST on June 17, 2010
"The average household spends 18 cents of every dollar on transportation, and 94% of this goes to buying, maintaining, and operating cars, the largest expenditure after housing," according to the American Public Transportation Association.
In addition to bicycling, taking public transit is one of the cheapest and easiest things you can do to lower your oil intake. In the U.S., it saves 37 million metric tons (pdf) in carbon emissions every year. And it save you a lot of money in gas, car maintenance, and insurance.
If you need help and you're wondering where to turn, start with Google Maps, which provides directions that include public-transit information. If buses or trains aren't your cup of carbon-cutting tea, see what's out there in terms of car-sharing services -- like Zipcar or CarSharing.net.
Read Part V of "Quitting Oil."
Posted by: Bruce Nilles at 10:01AM PST on June 17, 2010
No surprise here, on the heels of President Obama's Tuesday night speech, the coal industry front group -- American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity -- released a statement saying they agree with his call for a clean energy future:
"The president also renewed his call for bolder action to create a clean energy future. We share the President's commitment, and recognize the steps we take as a nation must balance America's environmental, economic, and energy goals."As we said in a post a few weeks ago, the coal industry is working harder to convince you that to address our oil problem, we should mine and burn more coal.
Wrong. 19th Century energy sources have no place in a clean energy economy. Coal belongs in the same category as oil - too dirty and dangerous and energy sources we must phase out as soon as possible.
The President got it right when he said, "The millions of gallons of oil that have spilled into the Gulf of Mexico are more like an epidemic."
We must restore the Gulf and push President Obama to put the weight of his office behind treating the cause of the epidemic, our reliance on oil. We must end our dependence on oil and coal.
So leading up to July 4th, we want you to join us for one the largest visual displays in Sierra Club's history as we call for Freedom From Oil this Independence Day.
Head to our Beyond Oil website to plant a flag and demand our freedom from our oil addiction and a commitment to a clean energy economy.
Plant a 'virtual flag' on our website and, if we get 50,000 people to do so, we'll recreate the scene in real life in front of the Washington Monument right before July 4th where Congress and the White House are sure to notice.
If we don't want to repeat the BP Oil Disaster, we must do better than using coal and oil to power our country. Let's stand up to these powerful interests and build a clean energy future.
Posted by: Heather M at 8:22AM PST on June 16, 2010
We're guessing that you all are just like us here at the Sierra Club - you feel frustrated and helpless looking at all these terrible BP oil disaster photos.Well tomorrow, June 17th, is an event that can be a good start in getting our country to end our oil dependence. It's "Dump the Pump" day, sponsored by the American Public Transit Association (APTA) and heartily backed by the Sierra Club, on which you should leave your car at home and take public transportation whenever you can.
Here's more from the APTA press release:
The 5th Annual National Dump the Pump Day on Thursday, June 17, will give people the chance to make a statement in support of public transit and its ability to help our country reduce its reliance on oil...(T)he National Dump the Pump Day is a public awareness day that highlights the benefits of public transportation.So how about you, will you be taking public transportation tomorrow?
Cross-posted on the Climate Crossroads Green Transportation Group.
Posted by: Brian F. at 4:06PM PST on June 15, 2010
Americans burn 378 million gallons of gasoline a day, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency. Oil is the lifeblood of the automobile, and there's no better place to start cutting down your oil usage than that metal box sitting in your driveway.
We're not saying you have to sell your car. But if you can make your trips to the pump less frequent, it'll add up. Start by inflating your tires, clearing your trunk (Carting around an extra 100 pounds can reduce your mileage by 2 percent), driving more slowly (or at least not over the speed limit), and biking or walking short trips.
Just how much better is bicycling compared to driving? Mr. Green had fun with some arithmetic by comparing gas usage of a car to that of a bicyclist who eats cornmeal for his or her fuel. Let's say it takes two gallons of gas to drive 48 miles. A typical cyclist would need about 1.25 pounds of cornmeal for the energy to bike 48 miles. "It takes a gallon or so of fossil fuel to produce 50 pounds of corn, so the amount of fossil-fuel energy needed to grow enough corn for the 48-mile ride is a meager .025 gallons," says Mr. Green. Imagine every American walking or bicycling short trips. Do you think BP (and other oil companies) would take notice?
Do you want to start cycling to work and nearby locations and don't know how to get started? The Crossroads blog has some excellent starting tips by Canyon Kyle here, here, and here. Also, check out Commutebybike.com's Commuting 101.
Have you got other ideas about oil and cars? Share them in the comments.
Read Part III of "Quitting Oil."
Posted by: Paul Scott at 12:44PM PST on June 15, 2010
There's a whole new class of small, highway capable electric cars preparing to enter the American auto market. These "City Cars", exemplified by the Mitsubishi iMiEV and Mercedes' Smart car, are designed for commuters who are in need of good, inexpensive vehicles that do the job of transporting to and from work while using a minimal amount of energy.
Eight Plug in America members were recently asked to come to the Orange County offices of Think to test drive the latest version of this highly efficient EV. Linda Nicholes, past president of Plug In America, has written a great blog on the test drive, so I won't go into too much detail, but I will say that the Think impressed me with its overall performance and handling. It's very similar to the iMiEV in most all respects, and if both are priced appropriately, i.e., a few thousand lower than the Nissan Leaf, they'll sell very well.
(Like what you read? Visit my blog EVs & Energy.)
Posted by: Brian F. at 3:14PM PST on June 14, 2010
One reason the BP oil disaster makes us sick is the flood of heartbreaking images of dead or dying wildlife and despoiled wetlands coupled with an infuriating sense of helplessness. BP's “handling” the crisis, so there's nothing we can do -- right?
Read Part II of "Quitting Oil."
Posted by: Bruce Nilles at 6:57AM PST on June 10, 2010
Today will see a major vote in the U.S. Senate - one that could hugely benefit Big Oil and Big Coal if it passes.
Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) will introduce her disapproval resolution that would block the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from taking action to limit global warming pollution - even from the biggest polluters like coal plants and oil refineries.
This resolution has been waiting for a vote for a while - I even wrote about back in March. But we still need your help in stopping it!
Senator Murkowski's amendment would block EPA from implementing existing and new rules designed to cut pollution and reduce our dependence on oil and coal in favor of clean wind and solar. It is nothing short of a huge bail out for dirty energy companies.
With oil continuing to soak the Gulf and air pollution blanketing most of our urban areas, we need EPA to move forward and cut our use of oil and coal. As long as we are dependent on dirty forms of energy there will be problems. At every stage of its life-cycle, from the production to the refining to the burning, oil is filthy and harming our communities and our environment.
Major industrial facilities, including the nation's more than 500 existing coal plants, are responsible for almost 70% of our country's global warming pollution. Addressing the pollution from these sources is a key part of the big picture solution to global warming and energy independence.
So please join us right now in calling your Senators and telling them to vote against the Murkowski disapproval resolution. EPA has a critical role in protecting our health, and the health of our environment. We can't let Big Coal and Big Oil continue to push for and receive loopholes while they pollute our planet.
Posted by: Heather M at 1:25PM PST on June 9, 2010
I had the pleasure of attending a National Press Club luncheon today that featured Ashley Judd speaking about the sad, horrible, and grim realities of mountaintop removal coal mining.
If you're not familiar with the destructive practice of mountaintop removal coal mining, you should be. It's when mining companies blow the tops off mountains to reach a thin seam of coal and then, to minimize waste disposal costs, dump millions of tons of waste rock into the valleys below, causing permanent damage to the ecosystem and landscape.
Mountaintop removal coal mining, has damaged or destroyed nearly 2,000 miles of streams and threatens to destroy 1.4 million acres of land by 2020. The mining poisons drinking water, lays waste to wildlife habitat, increases the risk of flooding and wipes out entire communities.
Let me tell you, I never thought Ashley Judd would be a slouch on this topic, but she still really surprised me and just nailed her speech. She clearly knows the topic extensively - everything from the history of the destructive process, to what actions must be taken right now to help stop it, and much more. Judd also brought it home because the topic is very personal to her: She grew up in eastern Kentucky, an area home to many mountaintop removal coal mining sites.
Judd started off her speech by stating that she's very proud of her Kentucky heritage, even exclaiming, "I'm proud to be a hillbilly!" and then choking up when talking about family memories from growing up.
"There is no better home than Kentucky," she said. Really, that's what helped make it very powerful to me, her descriptions of the effects of the endless destruction mountaintop removal has on Appalachian families and the environment were fairly breath-taking and frequently caused her to tear up.
Judd pushed clean energy as an alternative, and admitted that while she does not have all the answers, she does know that mountaintop removal coal mining is wrong and unjust, and she would be more than happy to sit down with coal supporters to have a conversation with dignity and respect about the future of it, why it must end, and why clean energy will help Appalachia.
The Sierra Club even got a shout-out during her speech. Not only was Sierra Club Conservation Director Sarah Hodgdon invited to sit at the head table with Judd (she is seated at the right in photo at the top of this post, and below you'll see her smiling next to Ashley Judd), but Judd also recommended to the audience, "If you want to know more about how bad coal is, then read the 'Dirty Truth About Coal' report from the Sierra Club." Not bad!
Judd also had two good quips when asked about the coal industry. When asked her thoughts on "clean coal," she responded with, "Oxymoron." And then asked about what role carbon capture and sequestration played in making coal clean, she responded, "CCS exists, it's called a tree."
I got a lucky seat out in the audience - I was at the same table as Mari-Lynn Evans and Phyllis Geller (pictured L and R in the above photo), the amazing filmmakers behind the phenomenal documentary "Coal Country." They are fascinating women, and Mari-Lynn had one great quote when our table was chatting before the speech started: "After making that film, I don't ever turn on the lights without thinking of mountaintop removal coal mining anymore."
Finally, Judd closed her speech with something really amazing. She read from a letter one of her aunts wrote to another in 1975. The excerpt was about the aunt's fear of a local coal company taking over their land for strip-mining, and the aunt said she wished someone would stip strip-mining before the whole area was gone. Very poignant.
So if you ever get a chance to hear Ashley Judd speak, go for it. We can at least offer you a small example here in this 2009 video of her speaking at a rally about coal in Kentucky.
Want to take action against mountaintop removal coal mining? Learn more here.
Posted by: Heather M at 12:58PM PST on June 8, 2010
To again take a break from the BP oil disaster news, let's talk about some other global warming and energy news out there.
First, there is a very important vote in the Senate scheduled for Thursday - on Senator Lisa Murkowski's (R - Oil) disapproval resolution that would block Environmental Protection Agency authority to regulate global warming pollution under the Clean Air Act.
This move is a total sham - the Supreme Court ordered EPA to regulate carbon dioxide after EPA ruled it as harmful to humans. EPA Administration Lisa Jackson is speaking out in opposition to Murkowski's resolution as well.
Looks like Senator Murkowski just wants to protect Big Oil and Big Coal from cleaning themselves up. Have you asked your Senator to vote against this resolution yet?Speaking of Senate action, Senator Dick Lugar of Indiana released his version of a climate bill on Monday. Here's our statement on it.
In coal news, Duke Energy is taking a long hard look at buying coal from mountaintop removal coal mining operations....really? Ah, because they're estimating how much it would cost to stop buying MTR coal, I see. In any case, here's another interesting fact from that article:
North Carolina is one of the nation's top users of mountaintop coal. About half the electricity used in this state comes from coal-burning power plants, and about half the coal for those plants comes from mountaintop blasting.
You can do better than that, North Carolina.
Meanwhile, Massey Energy (owner of the mine that blew up and killed 29 coal miners in early April) is now blaming the Mine Safety and Health Administration for making them install a ventilation system that's unsafe. And it just happens to be the same system that was in place at the mine that exploded.
If you're in Houston this Thursday night, then check out the Houston Sierra Club Chapter's Air Quality forum, where they'll talk about plans for the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. That pipeline would bring Canada's dirty tar sands (see the photo) into the U.S., and you can send in your comment right now opposing that plan.
We just released a major report on tar sands with several other organizations, too. Go read "Tar Sands Invasion" and educate yourself on why this dirty energy source is not a wise choice for the U.S. Here is a good column on this issue, too.
Finally, today Yale University and George Mason University co-released a poll on public opinion about global warming. The results?
The polling also includes numbers on specific policy points to stop global warming. Check it out.
Posted by: Bruce Nilles at 10:40AM PST on June 3, 2010
This post was co-written by Nachy Kanfer, Associate Field Organizer for the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign in Ohio.
We regularly dispute Big Coal when they say coal is not bad for the environment - now we have another example of how this dirty, outdated power source is costing jobs and damaging the economy in one state.
The Sierra Club just co-released a report showing that the Bay Shore coal-fired power plant in Oregon, Ohio, causes nearly $30 million in damages to the state's economy every year.
The report, produced by Genter Consulting and co-released by the Western Lake Erie Waterkeeper Association, Ohio Citizen Action, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Ohio Environmental Council, the Lake Erie Charter Boat Association, and the Ohio Division of the Izaak Walton League of America, shows that this massive economic damage is caused by the plant's antiquated cooling system.
The Bay Shore facility lacks cooling towers, which means that every day it has to draw over 650 million gallons of fresh water. In the summertime, that requires the plant to suck in the entire Maumee River! The water is then spit back into Lake Erie, 5-12 degrees Fahrenheit warmer, and with 126,000 fewer fish every day. This destroys fish populations in Lake Erie that would otherwise be used by Ohioans for recreation or commercial sale.
The conservative $29.7 million estimate was for damage to fish only, and did not include estimates of damage from other uses such as hunting or bird-watching, both of which contribute to the state's economy as well. The study used FirstEnergy's (operator of the Bay Shore plant) own numbers for how many fish are killed.
The report methodically demonstrates a central necessity: the installation of cooling towers at the Bay Shore plant, which would reduce fish kills by 95 percent.
"We now know that the estimated $100 million cost of installing cooling towers is economically justified by the annual $29.7 million economic loss from the fish kills," said Sandy Bihn, a member of the Oregon City Council and Executive Director of the Western Lake Erie Waterkeeper Association.
"Ohio's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) needs to require Bay Shore to install cooling towers to reduce the millions of fish - and billions of larval fish - killed each year."
This report also comes as the Ohio EPA reviews its draft of a wastewater discharge renewal permit for the Bay Shore facility - which we are urging them to reject.
Commercial fishermen, sport anglers, and recreational boaters in the Toledo area are taking the lead on this issue, saying the coal plant's destruction of fish populations for cooling purposes robs them of their livelihoods.
"I have lived and worked within one half mile of the Bay Shore plant starting 17 years before it was built in 1951, and ever since," said Frank Reynolds, a local resident and commercial fisherman. "The Bay Shore power plant has killed fish and degraded the Maumee Bay waters, spawning grounds, nursery and general food supply."
Ultimately, of course, the best way to preserve the livelihoods of those who rely on fishing in Lake Erie - and the best way to clean the lake and strengthen the economy of northwest Ohio - is to stop burning coal at the Bay Shore plant.
It's not just a problem of fish - though that would be bad enough. The Bay Shore plant, along with three other FirstEnergy-owned plants along the shore of Lake Erie, is also under a Notice of Violation from the United States Environmental Protection Agency for alleged violations of the Clean Air Act. Bay Shore has no modern pollution controls and contributes to Ohio's chronic conditions of poor air quality, through heavy emissions of dangerous soot, smog and mercury.
Coal has no place in Ohio's energy future. In recent weeks, as the BP oil disaster unfolds off the Gulf Coast, we have all felt a keen sense of solidarity with those whose livelihoods - and lives - have been ruined by our nation's addiction to oil. The problem, in a nutshell, is dirty energy. Whether it's oil on the Gulf Coast or coal in Ohio, we have learned that dirty energy is simply incompatible with clean water, our nation's crucial fishing and tourism industries, and a strong, robust economy.
BONUS NEWS: We'll end with some good news that just came down from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Today EPA announced a new strong standard for sulfur dioxide, one of the major pollutants that burning coal spews forth into our air. This new EPA standard will reduce acid rain, soot and smog pollution.
Posted by: Heather M at 10:18AM PST on June 2, 2010
Over on the blog of the "People of Faith for the Environment" group here on Climate Crossroads, I've been posting news hits covering how various faith groups are responding to the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
Whether the groups are there in person, like Mennonite Disaster Service or the United Church of Christ (their work is here, here and here), or there are various religious groups - from Christians to Jews to Buddhists and more - all talking about a faithful response and the morality of our oil dependence, there's been an article about it and I've posted it on the blog in that group. Here are links to those blog posts: June 2nd post, May 14th post, May 11th post, and the May 7th post.
If you know of any other faith groups talking about and/or responding along the Gulf, let us know in the comments section.
Posted by: Heather M at 6:47AM PST on May 28, 2010
Here's a disturbing segment from MSNBC's Rachel Maddow show last night - all about some Gulf of Mexico oil spill deja-vu. Turns out a very, very similar situation as this current BP tragedy happened just over 30 years ago. And we still don't know how to fix the problems all these years later.
Posted by: Brian F. at 12:34PM PST on May 27, 2010
The Climate Crossroads Bicycle haiku (bike-ku) contest ends Monday. It's easy to enter! All you have to do is join the Bicycle group, post a picture, and paste in a haiku. Since May is National Bike Month, the contest is all in good fun. But there are some serious prizes.
The top prize is a Breezer Uptown 8. And two runners-up will get a Nutcase helmet and a Kryptonite lock. Congressman Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, an avid bicyclist and author of H.R. 4722, the Active Community Transportation Act, will choose the grand prize winner. A panel of bike happy Sierra Club staffers will select the finalists next week.
Posted by: Bruce Nilles at 10:27AM PST on May 27, 2010
Last week our Michigan Chapter and everyone who loves clean air and clean energy got some great news when the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the Environment (MDNRE) denied a permit for the proposed Wolverine coal-fired power plant.
We're cheering the news - the DNRE decision states there is no need for the proposed power plant, in Rogers City, Michigan, and that alternative methods are available that would supply the customers of the four electric cooperatives that make up Wolverine with electricity at a much cheaper rate than the cost of building a new coal plant.
State officials estimated that the proposed plant would increase the electric rates charged by the cooperatives by at least 59.2% even after Wolverine suggested reducing the plant by half.
Residents had been fighting this plant and calling for clean energy options instead for almost three years now!
"The cost of Wolverine coal would have meant diminished health, diminished economy, and great injury to our environment which sustains our lives," said Jean Veselenak, a resident of Rogers City. "Wolverine must now put its head to the real thing; wind, solar; and new technology that already exists in Michigan. Our families deserve these jobs and their health after long promises."
We also saw good news from Ohio last week when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA and Department of Justice announced a settlement with American Municipal Power that will shut down AMP's last coal plant in Ohio by 2012: the Richard Gorsuch Station, located near Marietta, over its Clean Air Act violations.
This move will clean Ohio's air, reduce global warming pollution, and prevent destructive coal mining by AMP. The company will also spend $15 million on an energy efficiency program that will further reduce polluting emissions and save consumers money.
Now after that good news, we head to West Virginia, where we need your help bringing good news to the residents of Logan County. There is a very important deadline rapidly approaching - on June 1st EPA will stop taking public comments on its proposed veto of the permit that would allow devastating mountaintop removal coal mining at the massive Spruce No. 1 mine in Logan County, West Virginia.
Local residents have been actively challenging the approval of this permit at the Spruce No. 1 Mine for more than twelve years. The proposed expansion of the mine would bury more than seven miles of headwater streams, directly impact 2,278 acres of forestland, and degrade water quality in nearby streams. This EPA veto would stop that expansion.
We urge you to join us in supporting EPA in its proposal to veto Spruce No. 1, one of the largest proposed mountaintop removal coal mines ever authorized in Appalachia. Take action right now to block this mine's permit.
As with the Ohio AMP plant closure settlement, this is another example: EPA has a critical role in protecting our health, and the health of our environment. We must not let this dirty coal mine move forward in Appalachia.
Posted by: Heather M at 2:23PM PST on May 26, 2010
Clean Energy Works and a coalition of environmental and veterans groups (including the Sierra Club) gathered on Capitol Hill today for a press conference calling for some major action on ending the BP oil disaster and passing comprehensive clean energy legislation. The coalition's top five priorities are:
I also particularly enjoyed hearing from Lt. General John Castellaw (retired, and shown at the podium in the photo at the top of this post) of the Marine Corps, who spoke about the threat of our oil addiction to our national security.
Today's press conference also highlighted a letter to President Obama that 26 groups signed onto calling for those five points listed above to be met. Click here to read the letter (PDF).
Posted by: Paul Scott at 8:54AM PST on May 26, 2010
Announced Thursday, the hooking up of Tesla with Toyota took everybody by surprise. As part of the deal, Tesla is buying the giant NUMMI plant in Fremont, CA. This facility has an interesting history as told in this excellent piece from This American Life. Tesla's CEO, Elon Musk, lusted after this plant early in the search for a manufacturing plant for their Model S, but the size of the plant at 5.3 million sq ft was too much for his needs. With Toyota's desire to build a low-cost EV using a Tesla designed drivetrain, all of a sudden, the numbers started to work.
2. The purchase of the NUMMI plant, where Tesla plans to manufacture both its Model S sedan due out in 2012, a new $30,000 Tesla-designed vehicle, and the more affordable jointly designed “third-generation” vehicle;
3. A $50 million investment from Toyota into Tesla when the company goes public, probably later this year.
Posted by: Heather M at 11:54AM PST on May 25, 2010
Our Illinois Chapter got a visit from a major icon. On Monday, the Rev. Jesse Jackson invited Illinois Chapter staffers Jack Darin, Jen Hensley and Sarah Gulezian to march with him and his Rainbow PUSH Coalition at a Chicago BP Station. Check out this video from the event:
Posted by: Brian F. at 3:22PM PST on May 21, 2010
I've gathered a few videos from this past week about BP's oil disaster. In case you missed it, Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune appeared on MSNBC's "Hardball" to discuss, among other things, Rush Limbaugh's hilarity.
BP's handling of its massive gash in the ocean floor has been less than exemplary. It's been a month since the deadly explosion. And one reason why there's so much outrage is that significantly more oil is flowing from the leak than what BP had claimed.
Posted by: Heather M at 1:32PM PST on May 21, 2010
This post was written by Jesse Prentice-Dunn of the Sierra Club Green Transportation Campaign. Be sure to join the Green Transportation Group.
Definitely should have worn sunglasses this morning – both for the early summer sun beaming down on the White House Rose Garden, but also for the bright future for ending our dependence on oil.
This morning in the Rose Garden, President Obama announced that his administration would issue the first ever standards for medium and heavy duty trucks (think UPS delivery vehicles and tractor trailers). Freight trucks are only 4% of the vehicles on the road, but spew more than 21% of all global warming pollution from transportation. Amazingly, the heavy trucks on the road today average 6 mpg, barely more than they did in 1970.
Improvements to freight truck engines and trailer design, using technologies already on the shelf, can significantly increase efficiency. These improvements will save truckers money, lower costs for businesses, and reduce oil use and emissions from freight shipping. To seriously tackle emissions from freight shipping, we must begin to shift freight to rail and make freight trucks more efficient.
Also this morning, the President announced that the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration would begin work on the next round of efficiency standards for our passenger cars and trucks for 2017 and beyond. Importantly, California will be at the table, as it is currently developing state greenhouse gas standards for cars from 2017-2025.
My take on this morning - it is clear that the years of inaction that have hooked us on oil are over. This administration has set a path that will cut oil from our freight trucks for the first time ever and is moving aggressively to develop and deploy advanced technology vehicles that can provide a cleaner alternative to oil altogether. This is a wonderful first step, and we must continue to push for a future not dependent on oil.
Posted by: Heather M at 6:57AM PST on May 21, 2010
Sierra Club Executive Chairman Carl Pope and Green Transportation Campaign Representative Jesse Prentice-Dunn are at the White House this morning at President Obama makes an important announcement on emissions and fuel economy standards for trucks. Jesse will be live-tweeting from @SierraClubLive - so go check that out (unless White House officials block that fun capability!).
Here's our statement on today's announcement:
Truck Emissions Standards a Strong Start
Washington, D.C. – President Barack Obama is announcing today that the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are setting the first-ever emissions standards for medium and heavy duty trucks starting in 2014 and will begin the next round of standards for cars and light trucks for 2017 and beyond.
Statement of Carl Pope, Chairman of Sierra Club
With the oil disaster in the Gulf showing us of the true cost of our oil dependence, we applaud President Obama for this historic announcement to improve the fuel economy of trucks. We urge the administration to set the strongest standards to drive us towards an oil-free energy future.
We need to end our dependence on oil as quickly as possible and the steps the President announced today will help us move us closer to that goal while also cleaning the air we breathe.
After cars and light trucks, freight trucks are the second largest consumers of oil – burning more than 2.4 million barrels per day and growing. Right now these trucks only average 6 miles per gallon--a number that has remained virtually unchanged since the 1970’s.
We are thrilled that the administration is moving forward with the next round of standards for cars and light trucks. Setting standards for vehicles for the longer term is needed to push old technology out and bring in the new. We are pleased that California is joining with EPA and NHTSA in looking at technology, continuing its critical leadership in setting a high bar for reducing vehicle greenhouse gas pollution.
For heavy duty trucks, these standards are a great start, but it is important to begin moving more freight by rail. This will yield the greatest savings in both oil and global warming pollution.
As part of the plan to end our oil dependence, we are also calling on President Obama to issue a presidential moratorium on offshore drilling. We already have the technology to create a clean, 21st century transportation system that will end our addiction to oil. We've been talking about getting off oil for decades. The disaster in the Gulf is a wake up call. It's time to get off oil and on to clean energy.
Posted by: Brian F. at 3:18PM PST on May 20, 2010
The Peterson Institute for International Economics yesterday released this analysis of the Senate's American Power Act climate bill that senators John Kerry and Joe Lieberman released last week. I've been reading various reactions about it, but The Vine highlighted this graph in the report, which caught my eye. Notice the numbers for renewable energy:
Interestingly, the bill would make virtually no difference to the solar and wind industries. But that's not too surprising -- the Senate's renewable energy standard is woefully weak, and not likely to do much to improve on existing state standards.This blurb illuminates why there are reasons to want to see this bill strengthened. Offshore drilling, nuclear, and coal are too prioritized in the bill. However, the American Power Act still sets an emissions standard that the U.S. has previously refused to adopt. The bill needs some bite. Click here to get going on contacting your senators and spreading the word.
Posted by: Heather M at 10:34AM PST on May 19, 2010
The Washington Post has a very interesting article today on the increasing popularity of Meatless Mondays (We have a Meatless Monday action right here on Climate Crossroads, as well as two meatless groups, too).
The article, entitled "Meatless Mondays, A Movement That Has Legs," covers all the angles of why people are doing it, as well as the meat industry's paranoid response. An excerpt:
Nervous meat producers! Could be a good band name. Are you into Meatless Mondays?
Posted by: Heather M at 8:46AM PST on May 19, 2010
The National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences today released three brand new reports on global warming as part of the America's Climate Choices project. This afternoon you'll be able to watch a webcast of the press conference for these reports right here.
First up is the "Advancing the Science of Climate Change" report:
The core phenomenon, scientific questions, and hypotheses (of global warming) have been examined thoroughly and have stood firm in the face of serious debate and careful evaluation of alternative explanations.The second report is "Limiting the Magnitude of Future Climate Change," which calls for serious action on greenhouse gas emissions from the U.S. This report concludes that:
"(B)oosting U.S. adaptive capacity now can be viewed as 'an insurance policy against an uncertain future,' while inaction could increase risks, especially if the rate of climate change is particularly large."
Conclusions from this report include:
These reports were requested by Congress and funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the National Academy of Sciences will release two more reports later this year as part of the America's Climate Choices series.
Posted by: Heather M at 9:37AM PST on May 18, 2010
There's still news happening out there related to other energy and global warming issues beyond the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
We'll start with a news hit that's slightly related to the BP drilling, though. Recently we lost our final appeal against Shell in its bid for oil drilling leases in the Arctic's Beaufort and Chukchi seas. One of our many arguments against allowing drilling in the Arctic waters is because an oil spill there would be even harder to clean up due to icy waters and how remote the region is.
Well Shell is now attempting to respond to those concerns - see this LA Times article:
Shell Oil Co. pledged Monday to deploy a prefabricated coffer dam ready for "immediate" use in the event of a blowout, with a full-scale oil spill response within an hour.
In a letter intended to reassure federal officials that offshore drilling can safely begin in the fragile Arctic in July despite the spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Shell said it also would be ready to apply dispersant immediately underwater near the source of any oil flow and would have a remotely operated submersible and trained divers at the drilling site.Sorry Shell, despite this move, we still think Arctic drilling is a bad idea. Learn more in this LA Times article from earlier this month.
Moving on from oil drilling to another dirty energy source: Coal. Today in Richmond, Va., a coalition of unions, environmental and faith groups joined for a rally and march to remember the 29 coal miners who died in April at a Massey Energy coal mine in West Virginia, as well as to call for safer mining conditions and for Massey CEO Don Blankenship to step down.
Why a rally in Richmond? Today is the Massey Energy shareholders' meeting. There was also a vigil last night. If you were there, please comment and let us know how it all went and share some photos.
Speaking of coal, looks like our corporate accountability pressure on one of the many banks that finances mountaintop removal coal mining is moving in a positive manner. JPMorgan Chase announced a change in its policy this week (PDF). I'll let Mark Kresowik, our Beyond Coal Campaign Corporate Accountability Rep explain it:
After the Sierra Club and our partners began campaigning to end JPMorgan Chase's coal financing in September of 2008, JPMorgan Chase conducted an internal review of their environmental policies and financial support for coal companies engaged in mountaintop removal. Starting in 2009 JPMorgan Chase began an "enhanced due diligence" process for any potential financial transactions related to mountaintop removal coal mining, which means extra review of potential risks to their bottom line or their reputation.In global warming news, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced yesterday that "The combined global land and ocean surface temperature was the warmest on record for both April and for the period from January-April, according to NOAA. Additionally, last month's average ocean surface temperature was the warmest on record for any April, and the global land surface temperature was the third warmest on record."
It's getting hot on earth! But who doesn't care? Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski. After blocking an attempt last week to hold BP fully accountable for its oil disaster, Senator Murkowski is expected to introduce a resolution in the Senate this week that will block the Environmental Protection Agency's authority to enforce the Clean Air Act to reduce global warming pollution. You can take action against this resolution today!
Posted by: Brian F. at 10:11AM PST on May 14, 2010
The bike-ku contest here on Climate Crossroads is off to a great start. We've had more than 60 entries so far and there are still more than two weeks left for people to enter.
Remember, by entering you get the chance to win a brand new Breezer Uptown 8 bicycle. Runners-up will get a Kryptonite lock and a Nutcase helmet. A panel of bike-commuting Sierra Club staffers will pick the finalists and the winner will be selected by Congressman Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, founder of the Congressional Bicycle Caucus.
Posted by: Bruce Nilles at 10:31AM PST on May 13, 2010
This post was co-written by Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign Director Bruce Nilles and Mark Kresowik, Corporate Accountability and Finance Representative for the Sierra Club.
The idea of corporate responsibility has come up repeatedly in recent weeks following the coal mine and oil disasters. That responsibility extends beyond profits to the health and well-being of our communities. By continuing to finance mountaintop removal coal mining these banks are throwing that responsibility aside.
Many of us talk about the harm that coal companies are doing to people and the environment with mountaintop removal coal mining, but the blame is not just at Big Coal's doorstep.
It takes billions of dollars to destroy communities, blow the tops off Appalachian mountains and bury thousands of miles of streams, as mountaintop removal coal mining does. Today the Sierra Club, Rainforest Action Network (RAN), and BankTrack are grading the lending policies of nine of the world’s largest banks that help finance the most destructive practices of the coal industry. See the report card here:
The report card reviews the financing practices of Bank of America, Citi, Credit Suisse, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, GE Capital, PNC and UBS, and found that since January 2008, these banks have provided more than $3.9 billion in loans and bonds to companies practicing mountaintop removal coal mining, including Massey Energy and Arch Coal.
So who are the biggest losers? PNC, which finances almost half of all mountaintop removal coal mining, ranked worst of the worst. The bank earned an "F" for its total failure to take environmental risks into account in its lending practices. Also flunking this year's report card were UBS and JPMorgan Chase, which respectively finance about one-third of all the mountaintop removal coal mined in Appalachia, and GE Capital, which backs about one-quarter of all operations.
Credit Suisse topped the list this year, earning an "A-" for their efforts to promote responsible mining practices. Credit Suisse has confirmed, although their policy isn't publicly available, that they do not finance the extraction of coal in a mountaintop removal setting. Wells Fargo received a solid "B+" for their commitment to phase out financing for mountaintop removal coal mining, including some deals the bank inherited from their purchase of Wachovia.
RAN and Sierra Club disclosed the findings of this report card to each of the nine banks in the report card and offered them the opportunity to clarify their policies in case we missed something. We were a bit surprised by what happened next. In response to initial report card findings, Morgan Stanley released a public mountaintop removal policy (on Tuesday, May 11th) that demonstrated significant progress and moved them from a failing grade to an average "C" grade.
Bank of America and Citi, two of the first banks to release mountaintop removal coal mining policies after years of pressure from RAN and other partners, also ended up in the "C" range. But perennial mountaintop removal coal mining laggard JPMorgan Chase has yet to make public changes to their mountaintop removal financing policies, and even went so far as to omit a shareholder resolution on the topic from the ballot for the bank's annual meeting on Tuesday, May 18th.
The Sierra Club and our partners will continue calling for each of the nine banks reviewed in this report card to strengthen their policies and cease their financial support for mountaintop removal coal mining. Our recommended 'best practice' is a clear exclusion policy on commercial lending and investment banking services for all coal companies who practice mountaintop removal coal extraction. It is time for JPMorgan Chase, UBS, PNC, and GE Capital to move up from the very bottom of their class.
Posted by: Brian F. at 7:01AM PST on May 13, 2010
Visit the Wonk Room for a side-by-side comparison of the Kerry-Lieberman Senate climate bill and the House's climate bill that passed last year.
Posted by: Bruce Nilles at 10:35AM PST on May 12, 2010
This post was co-written by Kate Colarulli of the Sierra Club Dirty Fuels Campaign.
As we've watched the Gulf Coast clean up from the massive BP oil disaster, besides BP picking up its own PR mission to improve its image, we've also noticed another disturbing PR campaign: the coal industry and the tar sands industry are both starting to use this disaster to tout the supposed "cleanliness" of their respective energy sources.
There are more and more "clean" coal ads appearing alongside oil cleanup articles, and the tar sands (also known as oil sands) industry has already made the outrageous claim that they are "safer" than offshore drilling. One executive said "that while there can be failures with conventional oil and oil sands projects, 'the damage would be much smaller and more modest' than with offshore spills.'"
This could not be farther from the truth, of course. One could compare the tar sands industry in Canada to a massive and permanent oil spill on land. When the tar sands industry destroys the environment from the get-go, who needs a spill?
Here's a fact for you: The Canadian tar sands operations are intending to expand to the size of Florida (and have already destroyed 200 square miles).
The mining and production of oil from tar sands creates three times the carbon emissions as that of conventional oil. As if its global warming pollution were not bad enough, tar sands mining also results in the destruction of the Canadian boreal forest, a vital carbon reservoir for 11% of the world's carbon and a global nesting ground for 166 million birds. In other words, not only does tar sands development create vast quantities of new carbon emissions, it destroys the Earth's natural ability to capture carbon through the forest.
And think BP's bad behavior only crops up in oil? Think again - BP is actively involved in the tar sands industry and has recently been cited for cutting corners on a tar sands project that would have impacted the drinking water for the eight million people residing in the Chicago area.
In October, BP was caught trying to under-count the pollution that would result from a proposed expansion of its BP Whiting refinery in order to process tar sands. The tar sands expansion would increase the refinery's discharges of ammonia into Lake Michigan by 54 percent and its discharges of suspended solids - the byproducts of making gasoline - by 35 percent. Surely the people of Chicago would thank BP for adding "byproducts of making gasoline" to their drinking water.
If that incident doesn't scare you, one of BP's tar sands operations, ironically named Sunrise, is situated above Canada's biggest freshwater aquifer. Rick Boucher, vice-president of the Métis Nation of Alberta, Region One, fears that "It's just a matter of time before an accident causes injury or death, and pollution of this massive underground freshwater system."
Instead of taking every precaution to protect this water resource, last month BP's management successfully beat down "a resolution that would have required the company to report on the environmental, financial and reputational risks of developing Canadian tar sands projects." The tar sands have been called "the greatest environmental crime in history," yet BP is steadily increasing their involvement.
This BP oil disaster should be a turning point in our energy policy here in the U.S. We should not keep relying on dirty energy sources like coal, oil and tar sands. We have available technologies such as electric vehicles, solar and wind power which would allow us to get off oil. It's time to make the switch.
There is no room in America's future for coal, oil and tar sands - don't let the BP oil disaster help chain our country to more dirty energy.
Posted by: Brian F. at 10:41AM PST on May 11, 2010
Click here to read all about the BP-disaster protests that took place late last week. Great pictures!
Join the BP Oil Disaster group here on Climate Crossroads for all the latest on the disaster and the clean up.
Posted by: Oliver Bock at 10:30AM PST on May 11, 2010
[ editor's note: On Earth Day Oliver Bock, a Sierra Club member, and his sister, set off on a cross-country adventure on electric bicycles. Follow Oliver's journey at his blog. We will be posting some of his writings here as well. And join the Bicycle group here on Climate Crossroads.]
The mayor of Flagstaff tries out an electric bike ... and likes it!
Cruising through the high desert.
Posted by: Heather M at 9:08AM PST on May 11, 2010
UPDATED: The NY Times has a good live-blog covering this hearing right here. They also had this photo up, showing a protester in the hearing. The photo is courtesy of NY Times photographer Luke Sharrett. The speaker in the foreground is Lamar McKay of BP.
Currently underway in the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources is a hearing on the BP oil disaster and current plants for more offshore drilling. The hearing, described as being for reviewing "current issues related to offshore gas and oil development," started at 10am ET and features a good round of speakers:
Posted by: Heather M at 1:05PM PST on May 10, 2010
The Sierra Club has been holding a series of "Clean It Up!" events around the country calling on BP to clean up the disaster and demanding an end to new offshore drilling. Citizens have already turned out for rallies in Florida, Virginia, Seattle, New Hampshire, Michigan, and Houston.
On Saturday in New Orleans, the Sierra Club joined with fishing industry representatives, Gulf Coast leaders, and a crowd of more than 200 concerned citizens at a rally in support of Gulf Coast communities impacted by the BP Disaster.
Then the press conference got serious, as the group called for no more oil drilling, including a speech from a shrimper who spoke of the oil disaster's impact on her industry.
That message is present at all the "Clean It Up" rallies. "Offshore drilling is dirty and dangerous. This disaster could happen in Virginia, or California, or anywhere offshore oil rigs are allowed. We need an end to all new drilling off America's coasts. But that's not enough," said Chin at the New Orleans rally.
There are more clean energy rallies and events coming up to counter this terrible oil disaster - are you going to one? You can even sign up to host one!
Posted by: Carl Pope at 12:49PM PST on May 10, 2010
Posted by: Heather M at 12:43PM PST on May 7, 2010
The major oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico is of course worthy of extensive news coverage, but perhaps you've missed these other big energy and global warming news articles from the week.
On Tuesday the Environmental Protection Agency announced plans to regulate coal ash - only it proposed two options. One to classify it as hazardous waste (which it should be), and the other to continue treating it the same as household garbage. As we've noted before, most of us don't usually have arsenic, selenium, chromium and numerous other toxins in our household trash, but that's exactly what's in coal ash. Even investors are raising their eyebrows at coal ash disposal now.
This EPA announcement opens up a 90-day comment period and we'll soon have an action that will allow you to submit your own comments. Stay tuned.
In other toxic coal news, check out this sad story from Crawford, Nebraska, where runoff containing coal dust contaminated a family farm where the vegetables were being given away to the elderly and low-income families for free. Don't let anyone tell you coal is clean - this story is just about the impact of the DUST from train cars full of coal.
On the energy efficiency front, good news! The Home Star Energy Retrofit Act of 2010, a bipartisan home energy efficiency retrofit bill, passed in the House of Representatives Thursday. The bill will help create clean energy jobs by setting up a $6 billion program to retrofit millions of homes to make them more energy efficient and to lower consumers' energy bills.
On to global warming - here's some stunning news: U.S. energy-related global warming emissions are down nearly 10% since 2005. Yeah, really! Learn more in this blog post and in this USA Today article.
And you may have seen the blog post on Climate Crossroads from Bruce Nilles about the University of North Carolina announcing that it will transition away from coal power on campus, but we didn't have video of it then. Check this out:
Posted by: Brian F. at 9:49AM PST on May 7, 2010
Posted by: Heather M at 8:35AM PST on May 7, 2010
Did you miss yesterday's live Facebook chat with Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune? No problem, here is it.
Posted by: Heather M at 10:28AM PST on May 6, 2010
This is a guest post by Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune, who now has video footage up of him talking about the Gulf oil disaster on our BP Oil Disaster website - along with this new map of the spill area.
Last year, Americans were outraged when the government bailed out the same big banks that nearly ruined our economy. We had to do it, we were told, because these banks were "too big to fail." Now we're being asked for another bailout -- this time for BP, the company whose irresponsibility has brought ruin to the Gulf of Mexico. Initial estimates for just the first few months of cleanup are in the billions.
Although President Obama has said that BP must pay the bill for its titanic oil disaster, the Oil Pollution Act currently on the books caps liability for economic damages at a paltry $75 million dollars. After that, an oil-tax trust fund kicks in another $1 billion. And after that, the bill will be delivered to the American taxpayer.
To make sure that BP's corporate hand stays out of your pockets, the Sierra Club is backing The Big Oil Bailout Prevention Act, cosponsored by senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), and Bill Nelson (D-FL). Also known as "Too Big to Spill," the act would retroactively raise the $75 million liability cap to $10 billion. (By the way, BP had $12 billion in cash on its balance sheets at the end of the last quarter.)
Of course, even that amount of money won't be enough to restore the fisheries and bayous of the Gulf Coast. I just had the opportunity -- "pleasure" is not the word -- to visit Louisiana and fly over the affected area. As far as 76 miles from the site of the explosion, you could clearly see the oil pollution -- ribbons of orange muck coursing through the water. Oil was already washing up on the outer islands.
You can't see this mess and not be angered by the impact BP has had on this entire region.
Like so many issues, this one ends up being about responsibility. Sierra Club members and supporters are doing their part. Already the Club has mobilized 2,000 volunteers in the Gulf States to aid in recovery efforts. We're also continuing our decades-long efforts to usher in clean-energy solutions, so we no longer have to sacrifice our beaches and wildlife to prolong our dependence on oil.
BP, on the other hand, is running an expensive public relations campaign in an attempt to mask the full extent of the damage in the Gulf and minimize their accountability. Anyone who is here in the Gulf, talking to residents and seeing the oil on the water, knows that the impacts of this disaster can't be minimized. BP needs to be accountable for every penny of the response effort and for every job lost.
Join Michael Brune for a livechat about the oil disaster today at 4:30 PT / 7:30 ET.
Posted by: Heather M at 7:37AM PST on May 6, 2010
A heads up, Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune was down in Louisiana yesterday to check out the oil disaster up close and personal. He spoke with some affected business people and then flew over the spill area. Check out his early remarks on this trip here. We'll soon have some video of this trip and the oil slick as well. For now, we have these photos. The above photo is of Brune talking with reporters before boarding the plane. This below photo is the team about to board the plane.
This next photo is of Brune talking with Tulane University Professor and New Orleans Sierra Club Chapter Conservation Chair Barry Kohl.
On Tuesday, Brune took part in a press conference back in Washington, DC, on Capitol Hill with key coastal protection champions from the Senate to discuss the impact of the catastrophe on future coastline drilling policy and to recommend courses of action.
Brune was joined by Senator Bill Nelson of Florida, and Senators Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez of New Jersey, as well as Environment America head Margie Alt and Andrew Sharpless of Oceana. (In the above photo, Senator Lautenberg is at the mic, and L to R are Brune, Senator Nelson and Senator Menendez). The press conference garnered great media attention, as you can see in this photo below.
Senators Lautenberg and Menendez are now getting attention for a bill they're introducing called the Big Oil Bailout Prevention Act, which would "raise the economic damages liability cap for offshore oil spills from $75 million to $10 billion," ensuring that BP pays the full amount to clean up this massive oil catastrophe. Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid has already come out in favor of this bill as well.
Stay tuned for more details on the recovery and response to BP's oil disaster. (Louisiana photos by David Graham-Caso, press conference photos by Javier Sierra)
Posted by: Brian F. at 7:26AM PST on May 6, 2010
Check out Michael Brune's Bloomberg column today.
Halt U.S. Offshore Drilling After BP Oil Spill: Michael Brune
Posted by: Heather M at 2:49PM PST on May 5, 2010
Phew, day 2 at the Good Jobs Green Jobs Conference was busy! It was another great day of speakers and workshops.
Today had a few highlights, and I'll started with hearing Senator John Kerry speak this morning. He greeted the huge, clean-energy-loving crowd with a "Welcome to the future!" Senator Kerry touched on many issues, including the fact that clean energy matters for our health, but mostly touching on the climate and energy bill he's been working tirelessly on with Senator Joe Lieberman and Senator Lindsey Graham.
"We will roll out a bill very very soon, and we will have a unique coalition," said Kerry, which was greeted with cheers from the crowd.
I also enjoyed what I heard from Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO. "When we plan for green jobs, we have to remember red, white, and blue," he said, referring to the oft-mentioned clean energy tech being manufactured overseas and not in the U.S.
In the afternoon session, Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley spoke quite a bit about the importance of greening our transportation industry.
"It disturbs me that we spend $1 billion/day on oil," he said. "This is a tremendous part of our trade deficit."
Energy Secretary Steven Chu gave a great presentation complete with a very informative power point on the competition between China and the U.S. when it comes to switching to clean energy and manufacturing the components for doing just that.
The U.S. is making some strides, but we have a long way to go before we get equal with China. "The Recovery act is making a $80 billion down payment on the clean energy economy here," said Chu, adding that it's esimated to have created nearly 2.4 million jobs.
"Part of getting America into a clean energy economy is to encourage energy efficiency," added Chu. "We are open to all ideas on how to make energy and money savings a social norm."
Two workshops I particularly enjoyed were the "Youth in the Outdoors" one, about getting our youth outside and ready for green jobs, and the workshop entitled "Building a Greener Ark," which focused on the faith community's role in the green economy.
The youth workshop had a great youth attendance, as the Sierra Club's own Allison Chin talked up our youth programs and the importance of getting kids outside at a young age so they see the importance and fun in the outdoor world.
The faith workshop showcased several faith community leaders taking strides in their own communities, be it through weatherization training and weatherizing community homes, to looking at national policy and making sure the faith community's voice is heard.
"We need to focus on how to create a new just green economy," said Josh Tolken of Jewish Funds for Justice. "We have a big opportunity to change the narrative around this issue." I also learned about a new faith-based enviro group - Green Faith. I look forward to hearing more about their work in the future.
Finally, UPS showed up to speak and show off two interesting vehicles. One was a UPS truck from the 1930s - that was electric powered.
They also showed off a brand new hybrid electric UPS truck. I like the innovation - too bad we had all those years between the 1930s and now that had no electric fleet, though.
All in all, I really enjoyed the Good Jobs Green Jobs Conference. It was very inspiring and I look forward to next year's.
Did you attend the conference? If so, leave a comment telling us what you enjoyed and saw.
Posted by: Brian F. at 6:37AM PST on May 5, 2010
Thanks to the Internet, you don't need a time machine to look back at what happened after the infamous Exxon Valdez spill of 1989. Exxon fought tooth and nail in the court system and basically got away with a slap on the wrist. After years and years of litigation, the Supreme Court two years ago sided with Exxon and reduced the previous ruling of $2.5 billion in punitive damages to a paltry $500 million. And these days, Exxon's pockets are blooming again.
Obama swears BP will pay for this one. But can we be so sure? Take action and tell your representatives that additional offshore drilling is no longer acceptable.
Posted by: Heather M at 8:09PM PST on May 4, 2010
I spent most of today at the Good Jobs Green Jobs Conference here in Washington, DC, and I have to say, what I saw was fantastic. If you're not familiar with the Good Jobs Green Jobs conference, this is its third year. It's organized by the Blue Green Alliance (a great unified organization of environmental groups and unions), among other excellent groups.
They've lined up an incredible list of keynote speakers again this year, and today was a great group gathered to kick off the event.
I really enjoyed hearing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi discuss how clean energy jobs and building a clean energy economy are part of President Obama's plans for our country. She and President Obama see the potential for clean energy.
"It is a big job creator," said Pelosi.
Terry O'Sullivan, General President, Laborers’ International Union of North America, also had a great quote from when he introduced Speaker Pelosi. "This conference will help us continue our efforts to save our environment and improve our economy while protecting our workers."
Labor Secretary Hilda Solis gave a long and rousing speech as well, really rallying the crowd to the idea of green jobs for everyone. "These green jobs are not completely new jobs," said Solis. "These are jobs that many of you have skills that can transfer or upgrade to."
But man, Leo Girard (pictured below), International President of the United Steelworkers, really got the crowd going, and even though it seemed as if he was just riffing to fill some time because another speaker was late. He's a great public speaker. Girard spoke about the long history of his work as a representative for the United Steelworkers with the Sierra Club. He said people used to laugh at it, but now they see how forward-thinking it was and how valuable and important the coalition of unions and environmentals groups can be.
"We believed then and we believe now that we're heading in the right direction," said Girard. "We've built a movement, not just an organization. And we're going to fight for sustainable policies, not just at home, but all over the world."
Girard also received a standing ovation when he spoke about the importance of manufacturing the components of clean energy here in the U.S. "What's the difference between relying on Chinese wind turbines and relying on foreign oil?"
Finally, I really enjoyed hearing from Colorado Governor Bill Ritter (pictured above). His state has made some many big strides toward clean energy, including a recent increase in the state's Renewable Electricity Standard. Colorado is a great example of what states can do for clean energy.
So overall, today was fantastic. I even got to check out a press conference discussing a new report about how increased freight rail is a huge source of green jobs.
I'm headed back to the conference again Wednesday, so another post is coming after hearing some more great speeches!
Posted by: Bruce Nilles at 11:21AM PST on May 4, 2010
Great news out of Chapel Hill, North Carolina: Today the University of North Carolina (UNC) announced that burning coal has no place in our clean energy future and is transitioning away from using pollution-rich coal power to power this nationally-ranked university.
I attended the press with UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp as he outlined how they were going to start testing alternative fuels and phasing in alternatives as fast as possible, and end coal use altogether no later than 2020.
I was also joined at the press conference by Stewart Boss, one of the student leaders of the Coal-Free UNC Campaign. It was Stewart and his fellow students who began a campaign a year ago to get UNC to walk the talk, and credit to Chancellor Thorp for hearing and responding to their concerns. A huge amount of the credit also goes to Tim Toben, the chair of the UNC taskforce that the Chancellor charged with making recommendations about coal's future role on campus.
"Universities must be on the leading edge of the transition away from fossil fuels and toward clean energy. Today UNC takes another major step in that direction," Thorp said during today’s press conference. "The University of North Carolina has been a national leader in campus sustainability. Our systems for energy efficiency, cogeneration of electricity and steam, waste recycling, green building, mass transit and water conservation are models. Our commitment to end the use of coal will also be a model for other campuses."
UNC is now leading by example. College campuses cannot responsibly teach about the dangers of air pollution, the science of climate change and leadership in sustainability in classrooms powered by coal. We applaud UNC for agreeing to a firm deadline and we will continue to work with the University to end its coal use as soon as possible, i.e. well before 2020.
Best of all this shows the power and effectiveness of students who want clean energy. The Sierra Club's Coal-Free Campus Campaign is focusing on the last 60 U.S. college campuses that are still burning coal, including UNC and its coal-burning facility on Cameron Avenue. UNC students led an intensive campaign, coming together on numerous occasions to rally and call for an end to coal and to use more clean energy on campus.
Together with all these amazing students, we are urging these campuses to lead by example, cut their pollution, and end burning coal as soon as possible. Chancellor Thorp has responded by appointing 10 students, faculty and community members (including our own Molly Diggins, the state director of the Sierra Club) to a task force to make recommendations before year's end to reduce Carolina's carbon footprint.
This great news from UNC comes on the heels of last Friday's announcement from the Environmental Protection Agency, when the agency proposed strong new rules to limit hazardous air pollution from industrial boilers, which includes most campus coal plants.
The new EPA rules are designed to protect residents who live near and downwind from these coal plants. Specifically the rules will substantially reduce emissions of toxic air pollution, like mercury, arsenic and cadmium, which can cause cancer, reproductive disorders and other serious health problems.
These decisions are great moves for clean energy and cleaning up coal.
"My hope is that today’s announcement will serve as encouragement for the thousands of students who have been engaged in similar efforts on college campuses nationwide," said Stewart Boss, coordinator for the Coal-Free UNC Campaign and co-chair for the UNC chapter of the Sierra Student Coalition.
"The fight to stop burning dirty coal is absolutely necessary to protect our communities, our country, and our planet. Our universities can and should be at the forefront of developing clean energy technologies and preparing students to be clean energy leaders. I urge other universities to follow UNC’s lead in moving beyond coal."
Congratulations to UNC's students, staff and community. This is the kind of progress we need on our nation's college campuses, in our cities and nationwide in all of our communities. Together, we can build a clean energy economy in the U.S.
BONUS COAL NEWS: Today EPA announced it is "proposing the first-ever national rules to ensure the safe disposal and management of coal ash from coal-fired power plants."
Included in the Agency’s plan are two options: one includes strong, federally enforceable safeguards to protect the public from toxic coal ash, and the other treats toxic coal ash (which contains potentially dangerous levels of arsenic, lead, and other heavy metals) less stringent than household garbage. Both the science and past failures of the patchwork of state-based regulations call for the stronger, federal protections. There will be a 90-day public comment period during which Sierra Club will be working hard to call on EPA to adopt the most protective safeguards.
We're still digging into this announcement to figure out all the details of the rules, and we'll update this post or post a new column once we know more. You can at least learn a little more on the official EPA rule website.
Posted by: Carl Pope at 12:55PM PST on April 30, 2010Update on the Oil Catastrophe in the Gulf
Posted by: Heather M at 9:49AM PST on April 30, 2010
We imagine that you're just like us - you've become more and more shocked as you keep reading the news about the massive oil slick spreading across the Gulf of Mexico after last week's BP oil rig explosion.
First off, you should take action on our newly-created Oil Spill page: www.sierraclub.org/oilspill
We've also been combing the web finding the interesting articles for you. To begin, our Executive Director Michael Brune was on the Rachel Maddow show last night talking about this disaster.
There's word now that some of the oil came ashore early this morning in Louisiana, and there's a full scale mobilization now to try to stop the worst of its effects. Here's the official response website.
We're also hearing that the smell of the oil is very apparent in coastal Louisiana now, too - this HuffPost article seems to confirm that one.Thankfully there was some good news this morning, the Obama administration announced it will suspend its plans for new offshore drilling until this accident is fully investigated, but it's not a permanent stoppage of any offshore drilling plans.
Grist has a good piece on how the Gulf Coast has become the whipping boy for industrial wastes from farming and other industry.
Wondering what it takes to stop a massive leak from a pipeline well 5,000 feet under the sea? This NPR interview will help you with that.
ProPublica looks at the U.S. Minerals Management Service and its role in all this.
For the policy side, the NY Times' Room for Debate blog has several experts' takes on how this disaster will affect current and future offshore drilling. The NY Times also had a piece about how BP's image will hold up.
See any other news worth talking about? Post it in our comments section. And don't forget to go take action at www.sierraclub.org/oilspill
Posted by: Heather M at 1:15PM PST on April 29, 2010
This is a guest post by Ann Mesnikoff, director of the Sierra Club Green Transportation Campaign. Be sure to join the Green Transportation Group here on Climate Crossroads.
With as many as 5,000 barrels a day of oil spewing from BP's Deepwater Horizon site we have a stark reminder that our addiction to oil does come at a steep price. It certainly is a "blowout" to use the technical term.
Deepwater is 50 miles off shore, which sounds like a lot, but with everything from fisheries, wildlife and beaches and coastal tourism threatened, it clearly is not that far when thousands of barrels of oil are bubbling up to the surface. In attempt to stave off disaster along the coasts chemicals are being dispersed to break up the oil and fires are being lit to try to burn it off.
This one giant disaster, which could match or exceed the infamous 1969 Santa Barbara spill that proved a turning point for limiting offshore drilling, should force us to assess what we can do to cure our addiction.
We have a transportation system that is almost entirely dependent on oil, guzzling some 13 million barrels worth every day. Just our 240 million registered vehicles drive some three trillion miles - two-thirds of which are driven in urban areas - and consume nearly nine million barrels of oil per day.
Not that the cure is fast or easy, but if we don't act now, calls for Drill, Baby Drill will come and billions more dollars will leave our economy. Both the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Transportation (DOT) have issued prescriptions for oil independence.
EPA's prescription is a mix of continued strengthening of vehicles standards for cars, heavy duty trucks, airplanes and trains, more electric vehicles, and investing in transportation choices and other measures that will reduce how much we drive. Using 6.7 million fewer barrels of oil every day by 2030 is worth fighting for.
DOT has also issued a very detailed prescription (PDF): Some 605 pages of strategies to reduce oil consumption and greenhouse has emissions from transportation - given the "illness," the prescription doesn't differ too much from EPA's - we have to deal with vehicles, fuels and how we move stuff and people. DOT details how we can reduce carbon-intensive travel, which will largely overlap with oil intensive travel. DOT notes:
The spill is a reminder of the consequences to our environment as we look for oil in more and more difficult places.
Our addiction to oil has another side - the dollars gushing out of our economy to pay for oil. T. Boone Pickens keeps track monthly of the cost of importing oil. In March 2010 alone, we imported 324 million barrels of oil at a whopping cost of $27.6 billion. At this rate we could send more than $300 billion overseas to pay for oil - that's no small price.
So, as oil continues to gush from the sea bed a mile down and the Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has called the "leak" of national significance, and cabinet secretaries are heading down to look at the mess, we should take good look at prescriptions from EPA and DOT.
Posted by: Heather M at 7:22AM PST on April 29, 2010
The oil slick off the coast of Louisiana. Photo by Chris Gaithen/Getty Images, from the NY Times. Click to see larger version.
There has been much more news surrounding the leaking oil rig off the coast of Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico. Officials had said the exploded rig's pipeline was leaking 1,000 barrels oil/day, but now that estimate is up to 5,000 barrels/day.
The NY Times also has a sad story about the workers who were injured or killed by the explosion last week, and how that line of work is really all there is for their communities: "In Area With Few Options, Rigs Are Mixed Blessing."
Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that the rig's well "didn't have a remote-control shut-off switch used in two other major oil-producing nations as last-resort protection against underwater spills."
BP is certainly in some hot water over this explosion, especially as they just reported first quarter profits were up 135% and that they were part of a group of oil companies that fought safety standards for rigs like these.
Oh, and oddly enough, BP was a finalist to receive a oil drilling safety award from the U.S. Minerals Management Service (MMS), but that ceremony was canceled yesterday.
This whole disaster also now has many government officials either saying "We told you so" about off-shore drilling, or reconsidering their stance on it (including Florida Governor Charlie Crist).
In New Jersey, the first hearing from the MMS on the Obama administration's offshore drilling plan was held Tuesday night and was dominated by off-shore drilling opponents.
More hearings are scheduled this week in Wilmington, Del.; Norfolk, Va.; and Charleston, S.C.
Posted by: Bruce Nilles at 1:07PM PST on April 28, 2010
Last night I debated the role of coal in our country's energy future with Peabody Energy VP of Government Relations Fred Palmer on the campus of Washington University in St. Louis.
The debate took place in front of more than 500 students and community members at Graham Chapel on campus, and was watched live online by nearly 4,700 additional interested observers.
Here are four minutes of highlights.
Posted by: Heather M at 7:00AM PST on April 28, 2010
If you missed last night's Great Coal Debate between Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign Director Bruce Nilles and Peabody Energy VP Of Government Affairs Fred Palmer, Ustream TV recorded it. Click here to watch it.
Update: Here's the video. Enjoy.
Posted by: Heather M at 11:37AM PST on April 27, 2010
Here are two more huge items of news interest to tell you about today. First - what are you doing at 6pm ET today (5pm CT, 4pm MT, 3pm PT)? If you're not at Washington University in St. Louis watching this in person, you can watch it online. It's the Great Coal Debate between the Sierra Club's Bruce Nilles (director of our Beyond Coal Campaign) and Fred Palmer, VP of Government Relations for Peabody Energy.
This will be a fantastic debate, for sure. Bruce has already greased the wheels for it with this OpEd in the Wash. U. student newspaper. To watch the debate online, simply go to one of these three websites: the Sierra Student Coalition website, the Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign website, or UStream.
Posted by: Heather M at 12:52PM PST on April 26, 2010
Sierra Club Board Member Jim Dougherty snapped these great photos from yesterday's huge Climate Rally on the Mall in Washington, DC.
Our own Bruce Nilles (now Sierra Club Deputy Conservation Director and former Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign Director) spoke at the conference and got the crowd roaring.
The Sierra Club also had a booth on the Mall during the rally to educate folks on all sorts of issues.
Treehugger also has a good write-up of the rally, including photos.
Posted by: Brian F. at 10:32AM PST on April 23, 2010
Bernard Brown of Philadelphia is the founder of the PB&J campaign, an online-based non-profit supported by Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs. The campaign’s goal is to reduce people’s carbon footprint through a simple message about food. According to the campaign, a plant-based lunch like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich will “reduce your carbon footprint by the equivalent of 2.5 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions over an average animal-based lunch like a hamburger, a tuna sandwich, grilled cheese, or chicken nuggets.” Take a PB&J pledge and read my interview with Brown:
We had an idea of doing a peanut and jelly eating contest. We would then figure out the impact of that. I was coming out of finishing a master’s degree and I had been to lectures about the impact of the poultry industry on the Chesapeake Bay. This impression was that the impact of livestock production was under-discussed. The contest didn’t end up happening, but we did all this research for it, so we launched the website.
I’ve been vegetarian for a while, but I’m not vegan. One of the things about this concept is that in practice, someone who’s not vegetarian at all and doesn’t tend to eat much red meat might have a lower footprint than a vegetarian who eats a lot of cheese. The idea here is a plant-based focus. It was never a question of vegetarianism as much as a shift in how one eats. If you’ve ever been a vegetarian or a vegan, you learn that eating animals is a luxury. It then becomes easier to conceptualize shifting to a plant-based diet.
Posted by: Don Knapp, ICLEI USA at 10:17AM PST on April 23, 2010
(For more, visit ICLEI USA's Local Action Blog)
From the Green Boston newsletter:
On Earth Day today, Boston Mayor Menino and Chief Jim Hunt were honored to have US EPA's Assistant Administrator Gina McCarthy on hand to help them accept the recommendations of the Mayor's Climate Action Leadership Committee and the Community Advisory Committee. In a culmination of the committees' yearlong efforts to update the City's climate action plan, the summary report of their climate action recommendations was publicly released today at an event held at the Artists for Humanity USGBC LEED Platinum building in South Boston.
The report, "Sparking Boston's Climate Revolution," details progress toward Boston's goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at least 25 percent by 2020. It outlines the economic benefits of various climate actions, and presents new strategies for consideration, such as giving climate adaptation initiatives the same priority as climate mitigation, and promoting climate action at the neighborhood level.
Mayor Menino also publicly announced the release of Renew Boston grant funding totaling $2.8 million for energy efficiency work that will create green jobs and retrofit 1,300 homes and 800 small businesses.
Finally, he unveiled a proposal to develop a 1.65 mW wind turbine facility on Moon Island in Boston Harbor. The City of Boston will work in partnership with the City of Quincy and Mayor Koch's office on the project.
Learn more about the City's green announcements.
See the Boston Globe's coverage of the report and the Moon Island wind turbine project.
Posted by: Bruce Nilles at 11:07AM PST on April 22, 2010
As we remember the first Earth Day happening 40 years ago, it's also worth spending some time today thinking about our eco heroes, too. I thought I'd spend my post today talking about two fantastic women who are hard-working green heroes in the coal movement.
Susan Holmes is behind the group Bokoshe Environmental Cause Group, or "BE Cause," a small but mighty environmental action group in Bokoshe, Oklahoma. She came together with some fellow residents when the nearby Shady Point I coal-fired power plant and coal fly ash dump proposed adding a second dump site. According to BE Cause, building the second plant would at least double if not triple the amount of fly ash dumped around Bokoshe.
Susan had no background in science or anything energy-related, so she took to the internet to learn everything she could about coal and coal ash. "For me it was getting online and finding out what fly ash was," she said. "The more I looked, the more horrified I was about what we had in our backyard."
Posted by: Oliver Bock at 12:49PM PST on April 21, 2010
[ editor's note: On Earth Day Oliver Bock, a Sierra Club member, and his sister, will be setting off on a cross-country adventure on electric bicycles. Follow Oliver's journey at his blog. We will be posting some his writings here as well. And join the Bicycle group here on Climate Crossroads.]
The nerves are a'tingling.
We are not ready but hopefully ready enough. Unfortunately, today is filled with events leaving very little time for organizing. We've come to the point where our actions have very little control over outcomes so we'll put this show on the road and see what happens!
Posted by: Oliver Bock at 12:39PM PST on April 21, 2010
[ editor's note: On Earth Day Oliver Bock, a Sierra Club member, and his sister, will be setting off on a cross-country adventure on electric bicycles. Follow Oliver's journey at his blog. We will be posting some his writings here as well. And join the Bicycle group here on Climate Crossroads.]
Less than 36 hours to departure! Here is the latest episode of "The Green Riders Videos" showing us (Oliver and Catherine) practicing riding and talking at the same time!
Posted by: Paul Scott at 9:40AM PST on April 20, 2010
Last Monday, GM's Tony Posawatz, vehicle line director for the Volt, and Dave Barthmuss, GM's communications director, invited a dozen Plug In America members to Dodger Stadium for what turned out to be an exciting test drive of the Chevy Volt. Coming hard on the heels of our Nissan trip, it's clear the leading car makers bringing back plug-in cars are serious about soliciting input from the people who have the most experience driving EVs. That's a good sign.
We started off with a thorough explanation of the car including the charge port and 120Volt cord set with the standard three pronged plug. Given that the battery pack holds 16 kWh, but only 8 kWh will be usable (this is to protect the longevity of the pack), Level one charging on a 120V should suffice for most folks. According to Dave Barthmus, Level two charging (240V) will be available, but it's not been decided whether this will come standard, or be an option.
My first impression of the car was how nice it looked. When I first saw the body at Chris Paine'shouse during our Plug In America fundraiser 18 months ago, it was surrounded by a crowd of people and nose to nose to a Tesla Roadster. Here, however, I was able to get a good look, and I liked what I saw. Not too conservative and not too wild, not too big and not too small, a car most people would feel comfortable driving.
Posted by: Don Knapp, ICLEI USA at 9:18AM PST on April 20, 2010
(by Martin J. Chavez, ICLEI USA Executive Director; Visit ICLEI USA's Loca Action blog for more.)
Politicians since Warren Harding have been vowing to “run government like a business,” usually with less success than advertised. Maybe the tired mantra should be retired—or updated to reflect the approach of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who recognized that even though government is fundamentally different than the private sector, it can be run with a corporate managerial mindset. The best example of this may be the most ironic, to some: the New York Mayor’s groundbreaking approach to sustainability planning.
Three years ago on Earth Day, the Mayor launched PlaNYC, a comprehensive, long-term sustainability plan that has become recognized by other cities not only for its exceptional achievements, but for the innovative process with which it was developed. Mayor Bloomberg championed PlaNYC and shepherded its creation using pragmatic principles borrowed from the business world: an emphasis on innovation, a disciplined focus on goals and cost-benefit analysis, and a commitment to accountability made possible by tireless efforts to measure and analyze data. A new case study, PlaNYC: The Process Behind the Plan, shares the full story for local leaders eager to replicate New York’s success.
Posted by: Brian F. at 3:33PM PST on April 16, 2010
Renewable energy, jobs, the Pentagon, the White House, radar signals. What am I talking about here?
Well, those things are all in a cauldron of controversy in rural Oregon, where the Pentagon is holding up a multi-billion dollar wind-energy project. The Pentagon seems to think turbines affect radar signals.
The Oregon project promises to be the largest wind farm in the world. It is projected to bring 16,000 jobs to the region. One reason why renewable-energy advocates are watching closely is because this conflict may have far-reaching implications on similar large-scale projects in Illinois and Texas. Here's AP's coverage. And here's the Washington Post:
Posted by: Bruce Nilles at 10:50AM PST on April 15, 2010
Since our Beyond Coal Campaign is also committed to fighting dirty fuels such as liquid coal, we're just as committed to stopping the latest dirty fuel threat: tar sands.
Tar sands is a thick, black dirt derived from the soil under the great forests of Canada, which energy companies are turning it into oil - and now there's a push for the U.S. to import it.
Late last Friday saw the Department of State released its Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for a massive pipeline designed to carry tar sands oil from Canada into the U.S. We've had a chance to scour the DEIS for this TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline, and it's woefully inadequate.
The DEIS does not properly analyze the pipeline and its oil sands over the entire life-cycle of the fuel, as it erroneously states that "the crude oil delivered by the Project would be replacing similar crude oils from other sources; [therefore] the incremental impact of these emissions would be minor."
Tar sands crude is not the same as conventional crude - as a matter of fact the synthetic crude oil produced from tar sands emits 20% more global warming pollution than conventional oil.
As a result, the global warming pollution from this project is staggering. Building this one pipeline would result in approximately 38 million metric tons of additional greenhouse gas emissions per year, the equivalent of adding over six million cars to the road!
Any analysis of environmental impacts must take the pipeline's global warming impact into account.
We and many other groups also oppose the Keystone XL pipeline due to its impacts on U.S. communities as well as the fact that the pipeline will spur expansion of the tar sands operations in Alberta, Canada - including further deforestation, water pollution, and global warming. The tar sands oil this pipeline would carry into the U.S. requires clear-cutting ancient forests, sucking up water supplies and leaving behind toxic lakes so big they can be seen from space.
The Keystone XL pipeline would be a 1,380 miles long, 36-inch diameter pipe that would enter the U.S. in Montana, and send its 700,000 - 900,000 barrels/day supply to stations in Cushing, Oklahoma, and the Houston and Port Arthur areas of Texas.
One thing the DEIS does mention that is disturbing is the potential for spills in the U.S.: "The locations of greatest concern for potential oil spills would be in sensitive environmental areas, especially wetlands, flowing streams and rivers, and water intakes for drinking water or commercial/industrial users."
We are encouraging the State Department to reject the Keystone XL pipeline project. Allowing the pipeline into the U.S. would represent a giant step backwards, right when our nation is poised to become a leader in the global clean energy economy.
The publication of the Keystone XL pipeline DEIS opens a public comment period, and Sierra Club and other groups will be asking members and supporters to contact the State Dept. to urge officials not to approve the destructive project.
Join the Say No to Tar Sands Group here on Climate Crossroads to learn more and get involved!
Photo is of the tailings pond north of the Canadian Syncrude processing facility and upgrader; Courtesy of David Dodge, The Pembina Institute.
Posted by: Heather M at 8:03AM PST on April 15, 2010
On the heels of yesterday's coal execs hearing Capitol Hill, there are many good round-ups of how it went. We'll of course toot our own horn and mention that Bruce Nilles' summary of it is currently at the top of Grist's front page. But if you want other takes on it, the Associated Press, NY Times, and Mother Jones also had write-ups.
It's important to note that as Michael Carey of the Ohio Coal Association kept saying during yesterday's hearing that the Climategate scandal proved that global warming isn't real, another report came out stating that Climategate proved nothing - it was a fake scandal. Read the Mother Jones article on it to learn more.
Moving on - are you sneezing a lot more this spring? Well guess what, global warming is messing with your allergies now. That's right, you're allergic to the planet getting any warmer. In this Time article, global warming is going to keep stuffing up your sinuses and making your eyes water:
The bad news is that in a warmer world, allergies are likely to get worse - and that's going to cost sufferers and the rest of us. A new report released on Wednesday by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) found that global warming will likely increase pollen counts in the heavily populated eastern section of the country and that the effect of climate change could push the economic cost of allergies and asthma well above the current $32 billion price tag.Finally - what are you doing for Earth Day? It's next Thursday, and President Obama released a video yesterday calling on Americans to make their lives more energy efficient. Watch:
Maybe you should make a pledge to do so using our Earth Day map? Yes, you should!
Any other recent global warming news of note to share?
Posted by: Bruce Nilles at 10:52AM PST on April 14, 2010
Several coal industry executives withstood some heat today during a hearing before the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. "The Role of Coal in a New Energy Age" hearing featured a slate of four speakers who attempted to defend their industries - with one denying anthropogenic global warming -as part of the clean energy future of the U.S.:
"All that we're asking is that the (Environmental Protection Agency) step back and reconsider its endangerment finding... There needs to be another independent review of the data to put to rest all of those issues." - Gregory BoyceThere was extensive "rah-rah-ing" for carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology during the hearing, but even Michael Carey of the Ohio Coal Association admitted that "CCS is 15-20 years away from commercial deployment."
Posted by: Heather M at 10:57AM PST on April 13, 2010
I mentioned it last week - tomorrow (Wednesday) is "The Role of Coal in the New Energy Age" hearing in the U.S. House of Representatives Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.
Because we know the four speakers will be spouting off some "great" lines about energy and global warming, we will be live-tweeting the hearings from our SierraClubLive twitter account. Follow along starting at 9:30am ET tomorrow!
Posted by: Heather M at 1:11PM PST on April 9, 2010
I thought I'd share some more coal news today. While there's still plenty of buzz about yesterday's World Bank let-down, other decisions are making news.
Number one is a hearing planned next week in the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. The hearing is entitled "The Role of Coal in the New Energy Age" and features some major coal company execs testifying before the committee on Wednesday, April 14th:
In other notable coal news, Georgia got some bad news when the state Department of Environmental Protection approved the permit for the planned 850-megawatt Plant Washington coal-fired power plant.
Finally, in coal ash news, the Sierra Club took action this week to stop the disposal of millions of tons of toxic coal combustion waste each year in unlined pits at the San Juan Coal Mine in Farmingon, New Mexico, and to compel the clean up of previously disposed waste that continues to leach toxic pollutants into the surrounding ground and surface water.
From our news release:
Since 1973, the San Juan Coal Company has dumped more than 40 million tons of coal combustion waste containing pollutants like arsenic, lead and mercury into massive unlined pits at the San Juan Mine, about 10 miles west of Farmington. The coal combustion waste disposed of at the mine comes from the nearby San Juan Generating Station, and includes various forms of ash as well as sludge from the scrubbers that remove air pollutants from the power plant exhaust. As a result of the lack of adequate safety precautions, toxins from the coal combustion waste have leached into nearby waterways and wells, endangering local residents, livestock, and wildlife.Heard enough? Take action against coal ash today on our Big Picture page.
Posted by: Brian F. at 12:45PM PST on April 9, 2010
Posted by: Bruce Nilles at 12:54PM PST on April 8, 2010
It's bad news for clean energy and our planet today, as the United States failed to follow its own global warming guidelines. CLARIFICATION - The World Bank today is set to approve a $3.75 billion loan - despite some countries' abstentions - to South African power utility Eskom to help build a 4,800 megawatt coal-fired power plant in Medupi. The funding would also facilitate plans for a second large coal plant in Kusile. The coal plants will be among the largest and most polluting worldwide.
Though the U.S. is the single largest shareholder in the Bank, the U.S. abstained from the vote to approve the loan, giving tacit approval to the coal plant funding. The decision goes against a coal guidance policy issued by the U.S. Treasury during talks in Copenhagen which encourages the development and funding of no or low carbon energy sources.
I blogged on this topic in March, as well, but unfortunately the endless protests and opposition to this move from the World Bank did not convince them otherwise. Check out this article and video of a protest in front of the World Bank yesterday, featuring Desmond D'Sa, chairperson of both the Wentworth Development Forum and the Coordinator of South Durban Community Environmental Alliance.
Granting financial assistance to projects like the Eskom coal plants - that will dramatically increase global warming pollution - is at cross purposes with everything else the Obama administration and the federal government is doing to reduce emissions, phase out fossil fuel subsidies, and make the switch to clean energy sources..
Like D'Sa's groups, nearly 200 organizations from South Africa and around the world have voiced opposition for the loan. Residents of the affected South African communities filed a complaint with the World Bank’s inspection panel earlier this week.
Chairmen of three U.S. Congressional committees with control over World Bank funding also expressed concerns, writing World Bank President Zoellick last week to raise "serious questions" about the wisdom of granting the request in light of the leadership role the Bank should be playing in post Copenhagen climate finance.
The World Bank should be using its financial assistance to help developing economies leapfrog high carbon development and promote investment in clean and ultimately cheaper alternatives such as wind and solar.
The coal plants proposed by Eskom would produce 25- 40 million tons of global warming pollution each year, and would operate without the latest pollution controls for sulfur dioxide putting the health of African communities at risk. Eskom plans to sell the bulk of the power from the coal plants to industrial clients at deep discounts, while charging residential customers three to five times more for the remaining power.
Our South African coalition partners put it best when describing this decision.
"Twenty years from now, people will look back and see this loan as a missed opportunity to change the world for the better," said Tristen Taylor, Project Coordinator of Earthlife Africa Jhb. "Eskom and the World Bank have made a monumental failure to appreciate not only the dire circumstances that humanity finds itself in but also the possibility of alternative, cleaner and more efficient development. Today's children will judge them harshly."
Posted by: Heather M at 11:26AM PST on April 7, 2010
This is a guest post by Karen Monahan, a Sierra Club Environmental Justice and Community Partnerships Organizer in Minnesota.
How do Environmental Justice issues affect our every day life? They affect what we eat, our health, housing, education, and many other aspects of our life.
Take for example a dirty coal plant; they are often put in communities of color or low income communities. Folks who live by these coal plants suffer from various health affects, including asthma (PDF). African-Americans have the highest rates of asthma followed by the Latino (PDF) and Native American community. Many of these folks who suffer from asthma don’t have healthcare to treat the illness. It’s about 15,000.00 dollars out of pocket expense to treat asthma annually when you look at lost wages and all the necessary treatments to treat asthma. Asthma is the number one reason students miss school, and it's linked to lower test scores and higher drop-out rates.
Folks still have to eat and put a roof over their head, so they often turn to a life of criminal activity which can lead to incarceration or even death. When you talk about environmental justice issues, you are talking about issues concerning race, class, the environment, health, healthcare, education, jobs, the criminal justice system, etc. You can’t talk about one with out the other.
What is one solution to all of these injustices? A GOOD GREEN JOB! One that is strong enough to fight pollution and poverty at the same time. We need green jobs that pay family sustaining wages and provides training and hiring for all communities.
How can we accomplish all of this? Well, by working together, but not just with communities we are comfortable with. We have to reach beyond the folks we have traditionally worked with. If we could have solved all these issues on our own, there would be nothing to solve.
The North Star chapter of the Sierra Club and the Minneapolis branch of the NAACP has realized this. We know we must begin to build trust and work together to make and sustain the change we wish to see. That is why the two groups are coming together to support each other in the green movement.
Our chapter and the NAACP are hosting an event on April 22nd at the Minneapolis Urban League entitled "Celebrating Green Heroes of Color on the 40th Earth Day." The panel will consist of community leaders discussing issues our communities are facing and offer opportunities for folks to plug in. They will discuss environmental issues that affect our every day lives such as access to healthy foods, transit, green jobs, toxic chemicals and much more. We will have demonstrations on how to build and maintain a garden box along with recipes on how to make safe cleaning products.
We will also have entertainment from our youth. This group of talented, inspiring young folks won the Green for All national contests on the rap they created on green jobs and the environmental movement. They are representing their generation and creating the change they wish to see in this world. I personally have worked with them and feel refreshed and inspired every time I am around them.
We will celebrate our green heroes, those who have made their mark on the green movement. Robert Bullard, Majora Carter, Winona Laduke, Van Jones, Keith Ellison and others will be mentioned along with handouts describing the work they have done.
This 40th Earth Day will be an event to remember here in Minneapolis. We are changing business as usual, we are reaching out to groups we may have never worked with and maybe even viewed as an obstacle to our work. This movement is not just about changing and expanding energy or food production, etc. It is about a shift in consciousness; it's about looking at our brothers and sisters and seeing ourselves. It doesn't matter the color of their skin or the size of their pocket book. It's also about honoring mother earth, understanding we don't own or dominate her, we are a part of her.
When we begin to live our lives as if we were all connected to each other and mother earth, liberation and healing can finally occur. We can begin to change our hearts and minds and follow what Dr. King so eloquently said "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." He also said "Darkness can not drive out darkness, only light. Hatred can not drive out hatred, only love." If we begin to live our lives based on those two principles, we can begin to create a nation whose values are built on justice and love.
Learn more about the Sierra Club's Earth Day activities right here!
Posted by: Don Knapp, ICLEI USA at 10:00AM PST on April 6, 2010
Photo credit: B Tal via Flickr Creative Commons
by Ryan Foshee, ICLEI South Central Program Officer
ICLEI, in partnership with Sierra Club, Public Citizen, and the Environmental Defense Fund, has been working closely with Texas local governments to explore the concept of property assessed clean energy (PACE) programs and how such programs might be implemented in the Lone Star state.
Since the passage of HB 1937 last year in Texas, which included language that enables local governments to establish PACE districts, a substantial amount of due diligence and education has been needed to kick-start PACE programs around the state.
Beginning last November, ICLEI and partners have been organizing and holding meetings for local government staff interested in PACE. The first meeting, held in Austin, was momentous due to the creation of the Texas PACE Partnership, a friendly agreement between local government staff to jointly explore the idea of PACE and share lessons learned. The idea is to dramatically reduce implementation time for interested cities and increase the quality of program design and management. Since that time, meetings have been held in Dallas and Brownsville to spread the word even further. Future meetings are in the works as well.
What’s So Great About PACE?
The heart of the idea is to enable local governments to finance energy improvements within their community, removing the up-front cost barrier for homeowners and, potentially, local businesses interested in energy efficiency or even renewables like solar PV. The home or business owner would then repay the local government over time via a special line item on their property tax bill. The wonderful part is that, through such financing, home or business owners could instantly begin saving money on their utility bills -- more than the yearly payment for the retrofit. Imagine paying nothing for an improvement to your home and saving more money than the project cost to finance. This is the economic reality of the cost of energy today versus the cost of installing energy efficiency improvements.
Thanks are in order for the cities and counties in Texas working to make it easier for residents to save energy and money, and we look forward to announcing the birth of successful programs all around the state. Stay tuned!
Posted by: Paul Scott at 3:35PM PST on April 1, 2010
Well, the gauntlet is down.
Nissan announced yesterday a price of $32,780 for the Leaf, a price that no doubt sent shivers down the spines of Toyota and Honda, not to mention GM execs. They now have to compete at a much lower price point if they want to play the game in which Nissan is writing the rules.
Keeping in mind the federal tax credit of $7,500, the price drops to a very affordable $25,280. Then, to top it off, several states throw in inducements of their own with CA providing an additional $5,000 rebate. We now have a base price of a mere $20,280, and the damn thing runs on sunlight!
It surprised me that Nissan was willing to divulge the price so early, but given the storm of interest the announcement has created, it was clearly a good idea.
Nissan won't be able to keep up with demand for at least the first two years. Word-of-mouth will be unlike any consumer product since the iPod. When each happy customer brings a Leaf home to display in their driveway, all their neighbors, family and friends will be clamoring for rides, and once given, they'll be sold that electric drive is the way to go.
This is not to say other plug-in vehicles won't sell just as well (we want you ALL to succeed), but Nissan will certainly grab the low hanging fruit that's been ripening for a long time. I imagine the Volt will do well, too, but we need to see their price before predicting much.
The federal tax credits are good for the first 200,000 units from each manufacturer. California's rebates only total $4.1 million, so they'll go fast, although there's a decent chance we'll add more to the kitty next year. Other states offer incentives, too. See Plug In America's compilation here.
To get in line for a Leaf, you need to go to their website starting April 20 through May 15 and register by putting down a $99 fully refundable deposit. That gets you in line. Some time in August, you'll actually get to tell Nissan what goodies you want on the car and place your order. Deliveries to selected markets start in December and roll out across the country in 2011 and globally in 2012.
It is confirmed that you'll have the choice of buying the car or leasing, although the trial balloon of buying the car and leasing the battery is no longer on the table. A $2,200 charging station will be installed and 50% of that is returned as an additional federal tax credit.
Nissan's willingness to lock in the price at such an early date has made the wait for the car easier in a way. With the benchmark made real, we can all plan for the day when the Leaf, or some other plug-in car, is ours to keep.
Old Walt here has turned into a grumpy puppy waiting for his owner to get an EV. Pretty soon, I hope to see him smile again:~)
Posted by: Bruce Nilles at 9:21AM PST on April 1, 2010
We've had some disturbing news come to us from the coal industry. It’s appropriate that it comes to us on April Fool’s Day, as it is a coal industry iPhone application that is designed to fool the American public about the devastating cost of coal.
Watch this video from our Executive Director Michael Brune to learn more.
While this iPhone app is a bit shocking, I suppose we shouldn't be surprised coming from an industry that, besides the coal carolers and the coal coloring books, also unveiled pro-coal cell phone ringtones last year. (We gave those ringtones a reality check in this video)
Check out our webpage on this latest coal industry embarrassment to learn more: www.sierraclub.org/scrubber
Posted by: Heather M at 8:29AM PST on March 31, 2010
This is a guest post from Ann Mesnikoff, director of the Sierra Club Green Transportation Campaign. (Are you a member of the Climate Crossroads Green Transportation Group?)
We are one day away from a new world for vehicle standards - April 1st may be April Fools Day, but when it comes to saving oil, curbing global warming and keeping billions of dollars in our pockets and our economy - the Obama Administration's action tomorrow is no prank. This is the biggest step the government has ever taken to save oil and curb global warming pollution.
On April 1, 2010 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Transportation will make final rules for both fuel economy and greenhouse gases for new vehicles. Consistent with what President Obama announced a little less than one year ago in the Rose Garden, by 2016 new vehicles will average 35.5 miles per gallon and emit 250 grams per mile of CO2. This final rule shifts vehicle standards out of the 1970s and into the 21st century.
President Obama even mentioned the rule in a speech today:
Just a few months after taking office, I also gathered the leaders of the world's largest automakers, the heads of labor unions, environmental advocates, and public officials from California and across the country to reach an historic agreement to raise fuel economy standards in cars and trucks. Tomorrow, after decades in which we have done little to increase auto efficiency, those new standards will be finalized, which will reduce our dependence on oil while helping folks spend a little less at the pump.Tomorrow's final rule marks EPA's first greenhouse gas standards for cars and light trucks under the Clean Air Act - an authority now under attack in Congress. Starting in 2012 consumers will have a new metric for judging new vehicles - grams per mile of CO2 spewing from the tailpipe. Cars and light trucks emit 20% of U.S. CO2 pollution and EPA's 250 g/mile standard in 2016, will keep an anticipated 950 million metric tons of CO2 out of the atmosphere. These standards will make the connection between global warming and tailpipes clear. In addition, EPA is setting standards for additional potent greenhouse gas gases associated with vehicles including air conditioning refrigerants.
EPA's standards complement the familiar miles per gallon standard from NHTSA - but we now hit the 35 mile per gallon standard called for in the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act four years early with EPA's CO2 standard - intended to match the stringency of California's landmark standards. Fuel economy goes up and emissions from new vehicles will go down by 30%.
For some context, according to EPA, the 2009 fleet of vehicles averaged 26.4 mpg and emitted 337 grams per mile of CO2 - the industry now has a clear path for progress.
Both EPA and NHTSA developed separate standards for cars and trucks based on footprint - ramping up between 2012 and 2016. Consistent with the Supreme Court's Massachusetts v EPA decision - the two agencies worked together using their different yet complementary authority to achieve two critical national goals - energy security and reducing greenhouse gas pollution.
As identified in the proposed rule, under the Clean Air Act EPA brings a different approach to setting standards for vehicles and measuring compliance:
California is already working toward setting standards for vehicles made in 2017 and beyond. With new light weight materials, hybrid technology, better engines and transmissions - new standards must challenge the industry to deliver!
Posted by: Paul Scott at 10:01AM PST on March 30, 2010
Gov. Schwarzenegger famously rides his Harley up the Pacific Coast Highway on weekends with his buddies, but last week, he took some time out of his busy schedule to talk about the benefits of zero-emission bikes when he showed off several Zero Motorcycles outside the capitol in Sacramento.
Zero seems to be gaining ground in this burgeoning market of quiet, yet powerful 2-wheel scooters and motorcycles. Several companies are vying for the upper end of electric motorcycle world, Mission Motors, Brammo and Honda among others. Zero, however, has been selling their super quick dirt bike for over a year now and have added a road version to entice commuters wanting some excitement in their ride to and from work.
I had the opportunity to ride the Zero a while back at Santa Monica's AltCar Expo and was thoroughly impressed. As a rider of the super smooth Vectrix Maxi Scooter, I was ready for some quick acceleration, but what I got was way more than I was prepared for. The 0-30 was a scary quick 2 seconds! I know, I know, we usually hear 0-60 times, but you have to experience this off-the-line speed on a virtually silent bike that weighs a mere 172 lbs to understand how cool that is. By comparison, my Vectrix hits 30 in about 4 seconds and weighs in at a hefty 465 lbs.
For those who live in big cities in warm climates, the electric two-wheeler is a great option for getting from point A to point B with a minimum of energy or effort. Now, I'm gonna take a quick ride down to the beach for the sunset!
On the far right is Plug In America's super-effective legislative director, Jay Friedland. When you finally go to pick up your shiny new EV at the the showroom of GM, Ford, Nissan, Volvo, Mercedes, or any other OEMs making them, say a little thank you to Jay for the $7,500 federal tax credit and the $5,000 CA state tax credit ($1,500 for motorcycles :~). Jay was instrumental in making those happen.
(Like what you read? Read my blog EVs & Energy.)
Posted by: Brian F. at 9:27AM PST on March 29, 2010
If you want to hook your home up to renewable energy and solar energy isn't all that feasible, perhaps the answer is blowing in the wind. Ron Stimmel is a small-systems expert with the American Wind Energy Association. He took some time to answer questions about what a typical American homeowner needs to know about wind power.
When people think of wind power they think of vast farms with giant turbines. In contrast, small wind is something entirely different. Can you briefly define small wind?
Posted by: Heather M at 11:37AM PST on March 26, 2010
In case you hadn't noticed yet, we've got a "People of Faith for the Environment" group now thriving here on Climate Crossroads. We just blogged about this cool issue over there and encourage you to join the group to read and contribute!
Solar City gave us a heads up on this, and I definitely think it's worth showing off. Reminds me again of some of the stories in our "Faith in Action" report.
Anyway, Solar City and the Unitarian Universalist Church of Fresno (CA) will unveil the church's brand new solar array on Sunday, March 28th. We've included some photos of the array here.
From the press release:
Solar City installed the highly visible 35-kilowatt array on the roof and grounds of the church, which was the first project of any kind to be certified by the Fresno Green Building Incentive Program.This isn't the first array at a religious facility that Solar City has helped out with. Earlier this week they helped unveil another set of solar panels on the Our Savior Lutheran Ministries Church in Livermore, California.
How 'bout it - does your faith group have solar panels on its facility?
Posted by: Brian F. at 9:33AM PST on March 26, 2010
photo courtesy Zan Dubin Scott.
In Sept. 2008, Laura Love and her husband got solar panels for their four bed, two-and-a-half-bath home in San Diego. They couldn’t afford to purchase the panels but, because of a leasing deal offered by SolarCity, they live almost entirely off the grid thanks to a four-kilowatt panel system.
The way San Diego Gas & Electric runs it is that we owe a bill once a year now. They do a net-metering account that we only pay in October. Through the summer we usually generate more than we use. Last year our total usage for the year came to $220, whereas before we installed the system, we paid about $130 or $140 a month. It depends on how much we generate and use. In the rainy months, we have usage. In the summer, we feed energy back into the grid.
Any rebates involved?
No. The owner of the system gets state and federal rebates. But what SolarCity did is take those rebates and factor them into the cost of the system and that lowered our lease payment. And those rebates amounted -- if I remember the paperwork right -- to about $7,000. That's a lot of money. But if you pay for panels straight out, the rebates are yours. Plus this year I'm filing for a credit on my federal return. There was a $1,600 deduction for energy-efficient upgrades.
Posted by: Sophie Matson at 4:32PM PST on March 25, 2010
Many landmarks and iconic buildings will turn their lights off in solidarity, from the Golden Gate Bridge and the Empire State Building to Sydney's Opera House and the Eiffel Tower. Check out this awe-inspiring video to see how it looked last year when the skylines of major cities went dark.
Image courtesy WWF
You've heard of Earth Day, but what about Earth Hour? This Saturday, March 27, at 8:30 p.m. (local time), join hundreds of millions of people around the world who are taking a stand on climate change. It's easy to participate in this global sustainability event: Simply switch off your lights for 60 minutes during the fourth annual Earth Hour.
Worry not; you don't have to sit alone in the dark contemplating climate change (though reading by candlelight sounds pretty good). Instead, you can host an Earth Hour event, or find one that's already planned in your city or town.
One tiny town on an island near the North Pole even pledged to shut off its lights despite the resulting risk of polar bear encounters. Now that's dedication.
Posted by: Bruce Nilles at 9:49AM PST on March 25, 2010
This is the weekly blog post from Bruce Nilles, director of the Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign.
There is so much good news coming out of the western U.S. these days on coal and clean energy. First up – another domino fell for the Blackstone Group.
Blackstone had been funding the construction of three new coal-fired power plants in the U.S. (I've written about them before). Last month the River Hill plant in Pennsylvania was canceled - and now this week we saw the plans for Toquop change in a major way:
Blackstone subsidiary Sithe Global announced they will now build the plant as "a 750-megawatt gas plant with a 100-mw photovoltaic solar plant." This will create 1,000 jobs, and again demonstrates that coal plants are just not financially viable anymore.
Now Blackstone and Sithe Global only have one proposed coal-fired power plant left – Desert Rock in New Mexico, which we're also helping fight. Does Blackstone see the writing on the wall? Will Desert Rock see a switch or total cancellation?
Meanwhile, one of Nevada's neighbor is taking great strides toward clean energy. Yesterday Colorado Governor Bill Ritter signed a bill increasing the state's renewable electricity standard. Now, 30% of the state’s electricity must come from renewable sources by 2020:
The Governor's Energy Office has predicted the program could result in as many as 100,000 homes with solar panels, small wind turbines or other energy-producing devices.And with all that increased solar and wind power comes more jobs for Coloradans, too. To add to the job increasing potential of Colorado, the state's also discussing a bill that will phase out coal-fired power plants. The Clean Air Clean Jobs bill, or HB1365, calls for converting several outdated coal-fired power plants in the Front Range area into cleaner energy sources. This legislation is the result of an agreement reached by Governor Ritter, Xcel Energy and other local stakeholders to significantly improve Denver and Boulder’s air quality.
Finally in coal-free western U.S. news, Los Angeles is slowly moving towards it goal of being coal-free by 2020. The city currently gets around 44% of its electricity from coal, and last year LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced his initiative to move the city completely beyond coal by 2020. Now a proposal to fund the projects that will help achieve ths plan is facing a vote from the City Council. I encourage you to read my colleague Bill Corcoran's column on Huffington Post to get a good look at how that process is moving along.
It's a trend in the west – move away from coal and toward clean energy. Let's hope it continues!
Posted by: Brian F. at 11:42AM PST on March 19, 2010
The Green Life has been posting tips all week on going solar. Check them out!
Posted by: Brian F. at 8:54AM PST on March 19, 2010
The Farmers' Market group on Climate Crossroads is doing great stuff. The group uses its photo gallery to create a photo map that spots where its great photos were taken. To view the whole map, click here!
Six farmers' markets were added to the photo map yesterday! There are close to 90 markets from 30 states up on the map.
Remember when viewing the map to click on a basket to view the photo taken from the market. If you don't see your local market on the map, take your camera with you on your next visit to the farmers' market, snap some pictures, post it to the photo gallery, and indicate your market's location. We'll take it from there.
Posted by: Bruce Nilles at 10:00AM PST on March 18, 2010
This post was co-written by Bruce Nilles and Mark Kresowik, Director and Corporate Accountability and Finance Representative, respectively, for the Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign.
"How good will the business judgment of companies that make high-carbon choices now look in five, 10, 20 years, when it becomes clear that heavily polluting infrastructure has become deadly and must be phased out before the end of its useful life?"This is the quote we have on our Beyond Coal Corporate Accountability and Finance page because it sums up the problem with funding coal plants. The only thing we'd add to it is this: then why is our government still subsidizing more expensive and dirty coal plants?
It’s true, the U.S. is still actively playing an active role in the funding of coal plants - both domestically and internationally - which is contradictory to President Obama's pledge to phase out fossil fuel subsidies with the G-20. Let's talk international first.
There are two women from Sasolburg, South Africa, in Washington, DC, this week fighting for the health - physical and economic - of their community. The World Bank is currently considering a $3.75 billion loan to South African company Eskom for the construction of a 4,800 megawatt coal plant. This proposed coal plant would be the fourth largest coal plant in the world.
These two women, Makoma Lekalakala and Caroline Ntaopane, are here on behalf of more than 70 South African groups who oppose this loan, including the South African Council of Churches and Earthlife. These groups have asked the Sierra Club Beyond Coal team for help getting the U.S., the largest monetary supporter of the World Bank, to stop the loan.
The World Bank's mission is to alleviate poverty, and Eskom officials claim the coal plant is going to help the poor get access to electricity. But hearing Makoma and Caroline describe how their community's electricity rates are tripling over the next five years in order to pay for this plant and the other planned coal and nuclear power plants proposed by Eskom, the subsidized electric rates for major industrial polluters like mining giant BHP Billion, and the harmful pollution from coal mining and burning in Sasolburg and other South African communities, we know that this loan will do anything but help the poor.
The World Bank has no business financing coal-fired power plants. After the Copenhagen Climate talks in December the World Bank is positioning itself to lead financial support for mitigating the worst effects of global warming. How can the World Bank help fight climate change if its financing the problem - pollution from coal plants - in the first place?
And how can the U.S. cast away its power by abstaining, rather than voting against the loan, when the project clearly violates both World Bank rules and the Treasury Department's recently issued coal financing guidance? The Eskom plan is designed to serve major polluters instead of getting clean energy access to low income families in Africa, many of whom live off the grid and need decentralized solutions.
South Africa and some of the other developing countries have a point too: As long as our government is still subsidizing coal plants here at home, we’d look like hypocrites. Domestically, the U.S. is financing coal-fired power plants via the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Rural Utilities Service (RUS) and the Department of Energy. But the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal team is leading the fight against these fossil fuel subsidies as well.
We're standing with the more than 50 electric co-op member rate-payers from Kentucky who wrote to the USDA last month asking for a formal review of RUS financial support for electric co-ops that are investing in and developing new and existing coal-fired power plants.
These 50 members are also seeing support from their peers and colleagues in eight other states, who have now made that same request. And these are electric cooperative member-ratepayers in the heart of coal country: Wyoming, Kentucky, Montana, Texas, Colorado, Alaska, Virginia, Georgia, and Kansas. Like Caroline and Makoma, they see firsthand that coal is bad for their environment and even worse for their pocketbooks. Whether you're in South Africa or Kentucky, coal will cause rate increases and the waste of federal taxpayer dollars.
If our leaders in the U.S. and beyond are serious alleviating poverty and combating climate change, they cannot be supporting new coal-fired power plants anywhere. We must all stand together to support clean energy and stop using coal power. It is past time for the U.S. to phase out fossil fuel subsidies.
Join us in telling U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to ensure the U.S. votes against any World Bank loans for dirty coal.
Posted by: Heather M at 8:55AM PST on March 18, 2010
Lots of coal news recently - let's start with one fun sign showing we're getting under some coal companies' skin. Doug Howell of our Coal Free Northwest campaign sent along two photos of note.
This is a billboard on I-5 in between Seattle and Portland, and outside of the TransAlta coal plant in Centralia, Washington.
Yes, of course we are fighting this plant.
The second photo Doug sent along is a little scary. "This is a 19th century horse-drawn cart full of coal," said Doug. "Check out their advertising slogan and the 21st century premonition."
Let's move onto to some stories about great organizing and activism. On Tuesday our Big Picture and Beyond Coal folks held a National Day of Action on Smog, coinciding with the deadline for public comments on the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) proposed ozone rule.
Taking the advice of scientists and health professionals, EPA proposed new rules to lower the amount of harmful ozone, or smog, in our air.
There were events all over the U.S., and we've already seen some great news clips from the gatherings. Check it out:
Groups press EPA to strengthen smog controls, Pittsburgh Post- Gazette
Students, Sierra Club advocate for cleaner air, Salt Lake Tribune
Sierra Club, schoolchildren, lawmaker urge action on ozone limits, Deseret News
Environmentalists warn Surry coal plant will endanger Hampton Roads, Daily Press
Dozens at Arlington meeting voice support for ozone limits, Fort Worth Star Telegram
EPA readies tough new smog standard, WFAA-TV (Dallas)
Speakers urge tighter ozone standards at Arlington hearing, Dallas Morning News
Chicago's coal-free future, Clean Power Coalition lights the way, Huffington Post
Clean energy rally maintains coal agenda, Collegiate Times (VA Tech)
Group pushes VA Tech to "Go Green", WSET
EPA plans to limit coal emissions, MSU State News
Students demand clean air, fight use of coal on campus, Red and Black (UGA)
And there's still more news rolling in! You can stay up to date on what our Big Picture campaign is up to by following the website and its group on Climate Crossroads.
Finally, in other coal news, Rolling Stone ran an excellent article recently on the reality of coal ash and how toxic it is. Here's a particular eye-opening section on one coal ash impoundment the writer visited:
Back before the spill in Kingston, I visited one of the nation's largest dumping grounds for coal waste - an impoundment site called Little Blue Run, near Shippingport, Pennsylvania. Little Blue Run is a huge, eerie lake filled with ash and sludge from FirstEnergy's Bruce Mansfield coal plant, a 2,490-megawatt giant that sits on the banks of the Ohio River. FirstEnergy recycles some of the scrubber sludge from the plant into wallboard, but the rest of it gets mixed with the coal ash and pumped through big steel pipes for seven miles and emptied into Little Blue Run. The sludge has a thick, pasty texture, but it's the color of the lake itself that's spooky: a luminous, metallic blue, with swirls of emerald green.Here are two pictures of that impoundment from Google Maps' satellite view.
Bizarre color, huh?
Posted by: Heather M at 8:26AM PST on March 17, 2010
This post was written by Ann Mesnikoff, director of the Sierra Club Green Transportation Campaign. It is also cross-posted on the Climate Crossroads Green Transportation Group.
It is a beautiful spring day in DC - perfect for biking (and walking) and a perfect day to applaud U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Ray LaHood's new policy on biking. Secretary LaHood blogged an entry called "My view from atop the table and the National Bike Summit."
LaHood states that "People across America who value bicycling should have a voice when it comes to transportation planning. This is the end of favoring motorized transportation at the expense of non-motorized."
LaHood provides these new recommendations for state DOTs and communities:
For a country addicted to oil - Americans consume some nine million barrels of oil every day and travel nearly three trillion miles every year- devoting more attention to making biking and walking a safe and a viable option for getting around is long overdue. This also comes as interest in bike commuting is on the rise - as noted in Sierra Magazine, 720,000 Americans commuted to work by bike in 2008 - 43 percent more than in 2000. Not everyone will bike commute, but failing to invest in the infrastructure to make it choice is bad policy. LaHood's recommendations are a huge lift of zero carbon and non-oil dependent transportation.
(You can also read more about a DOT grant that is helping the Philadelphia area become more bike friendly in this Green Transportation blog post.)
Posted by: Heather M at 9:06AM PST on March 16, 2010
This week kicks off a fun group of tours from the Sierra Club Cool Cities Program and the U.S. Green Building Council. (Cool Cities has a group on Climate Crossroads - join now!)
Volunteers from both groups are holding public tours of green buildings across the U.S. this week to highlight the local economic and environmental benefits of energy-efficient, sustainable buildings.
Our folks down in Charlotte, N.C., already got a jump on it all by holding their tour last week and earned a great article in the Charlotte Observer. (The photo is of the building they toured. Photo by T. Ortega Gaines of the Charlotte Observer)
The tours are part of the national "Green Buildings for Cool Cities" partnership between the Sierra Club and the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The project is aimed at helping cities nationwide make green building a key component of their economic and environmental recovery efforts.
The green building tour locations include Memphis, Charlotte, Fort Collins, San Jose, Indianapolis, Denver, Greater Milwaukee, and Augusta, Maine. Find a tour near you! And if there isn't one near you, then check out the partnership on the Cool Cities website to start up your own local group.
The venues range from homes, banks, schools, business offices, municipal buildings, to supermarkets, fire stations, low-income senior housing, a movie theater, and a LEED ND or neighborhood development project.
"Buildings contribute nearly 40% of global warming emissions and consume over 70% of electricity use in the U.S., so they present a tremendous opportunity as we look for ways to reduce energy costs, greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution – not to mention create jobs in the emerging clean energy economy," said Glen Brand, director of the Sierra Club’s national Cool Cities program.
Posted by: Brian F. at 1:07PM PST on March 12, 2010
Posted by: Bruce Nilles at 11:46AM PST on March 12, 2010
This post was co-written by Bruce Nilles and Mary Anne Hitt, director and deputy director of the Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign, respectively.
There is nothing clean about destroying homes and communities to get coal out of the ground. Mountaintop removal coal mining is a dirty secret in our nation's energy supply. More than 470 mountains in Appalachia have been destroyed by this process of detonating explosives to expose the thin layers of coal at the surface. Coal companies dump the resulting mining waste and debris in valleys, and they have filled and destroyed approximately 2,000 miles of streams to date. As a result, we Appalachians suffer from the loss of our rivers, streams, and forests; contamination of our drinking water; increased flooding; and other impacts.
There is Bush-era waste loophole in the "fill rule" that allows polluters to bypass water quality standards and dump untreated mining waste in streams, lakes, and rivers. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has the authority to close the waste loophole in the Clean Water Act, and President Obama should instruct the agency to do so immediately
Time is running out for EPA to fix the Clean Water Act before the end of the Obama administration's first term, given the time required to change regulations. EPA needs a green light now from the White House to begin, and President Obama should give it to them. The Obama Administration has an opportunity to end the dirtiest form of coal mining by reinstating the longstanding prohibition on filling waters with waste immediately.
Help stop the dumping of mining waste in our water. Please call the White House on March 15 and ask President Obama to restore the Clean Water Act's prohibition on filling waters with waste: 202-456-1414 (9AM-5PM Eastern Time).
Put it in your calendar now - call the White House on Monday!
Mountaintop removal mining is strip mining on steroids. Peer-reviewed research published in the distinguished journal Science found the impacts of valley fills and mountaintop removal are "pervasive and irreversible, and that mitigation cannot compensate for losses" to our water quality, wildlife, and quality of life.
It doesn't have to be this way. We can keep the lights on without destroying the streams and communities of Appalachia. Only five percent of our nation's electricity comes from mountaintop removal coal, an amount that could be easily made up from a wide range of cleaner energy sources (or even coal from underground mines in elsewhere in Appalachia).
In the mountains of Appalachia you will find hard-working, patriotic Americans who are dedicated to their families and communities. These mountains are world famous for whitewater rivers, scenic beauty, bluegrass music, and old-fashioned hospitality. Those of us who had the great fortune to grow up here consider it to be heaven on earth. But time is running out for our mountains, streams and communities.
Will you join us in calling the White House on March 15 and asking President Obama to restore the Clean Water Act's prohibition on filling waters with waste?
Together, we can demonstrate to the White House the urgent need for action to restore the prohibition of dumping mining waste in our water.
Posted by: Brian F. at 10:17AM PST on March 12, 2010
We have a farmers' market group here on Climate Crossroads. Join it, post pictures of your market, tell us where it is, and we'll put it up on our market map!
Posted by: Heather M at 10:35AM PST on March 11, 2010
This morning, right next to the U.S. Capitol building, we saw the official kick off the 2010 Earth Day Revolution. Today marks 40 days until Earth Day, and coincidentally enough, this year is the 40th anniversary of Earth Day.
The Earth Day Revolution calls for the Senate to stop stalling and pass comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation, and today's rally speakers signed the official Earth Day Revolution Declaration:
"Since the first Earth Day began 40 years ago, and despite incredible progress on environmental protection, America has a failing energy policy that continues to reward polluters, undermines the health of the American people, threatens our national and economic security and keeps us dependent on energy sources from overseas. We call on the Congress to finally push aside the obstruction of the polluter lobby and stand with America's Clean Energy Patriots. We call for America's elected leaders to join us as Clean Energy Patriots and deliver on the promise of a clean energy revolution and climate action now."
The rally's speakers were all quite inspiring, with many wanting to know just whose side the Senate is on - Big Oil's, or clean energy. I particularly enjoyed hearing from Reverend Lennox Yearwood, Jr., President of the Hip Hop Caucus.
"For our generation, this is a battle for survival," said Rev. Yearwood (pictured above). "We need to reclaim our communities and we need to restore our planet."
Speakers called for a new clean energy policy that protects the planet and not the same old special interests that want to block action on global warming and continue to pollute our air, water and land.
Sierra Club President Allison Chin (pictured above) also spoke. "Over the next 40 days, we need Senators to stand up and separate themselves from Big Oil," she said. Read her full remarks here.
Rock the Vote President Heather Smith brought up the wants and needs of today's youth movement. "Young people want jobs, they want a cleaner planet and they want security," said Smith, noting that clean energy can bring about all of the above.
Finally, Denis Hayes, one of the national coordinators of the first Earth Day 40 years ago spoke and told tales of what it was like planning it all in such a different time. Here is a photo of Hayes signing the declaration.
The whole rally was powerful and certainly got me excited about this year's Earth Day. Stay tuned to Climate Crossroads and the Sierra Club Earth Day site to find out what you can do with us on April 22.
For now, you too can sign the Earth Day Revolution Declaration and learn more about the cause by going to www.EarthDayRevolution.com
Here's a full list of all the groups that have signed the Declaration:
1Sky, Audubon, American Hunters and Shooters, American Rivers, American Values Network, Campus Progress, Center for American Progress Action Fund, Clean Water Action, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Climate Protection Action Fund, Climate Solutions, Defenders of Wildlife, Democracia Ahora, Earth Day Network, Environment America, Environmental Defense Action Fund, Environmental Law and Policy Center, Green for All, Hip Hop Caucus, Interfaith Power and Light, La Onda Verde, League of Conservation Voters, National Catholic Rural Life Conference, National Wildlife Federation, NWF Campus Ecology, Natural Resources Defense Council Action Fund, Oceana, Operation Free, Rock the Vote, Sierra Club, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, SACE, Southern Energy Network, StudentPIRGs, SustainUS, Truman National Security Project, Union of Concerned Scientists, Veterans for Common Sense, Voces Verdes, World Wildlife Fund, The Wilderness Society.
All photos by Heather Moyer.
Posted by: Heather M at 7:09AM PST on March 10, 2010
This is a guest post by Branden Grubb, energy intern in the Sierra Club Legislative Office.
Massive snowfalls, wildfires, flooding, hurricanes, and tornados are consistently occurring more often due to high levels of moisture in the air. Why are there high levels of moisture in the air? The answer is easy: climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has concluded that the earth is slowly warming. Slow warming results in greater amounts of evaporation, evaporation causes high moisture levels, and high moisture levels cause extreme weather. This is why there was a record snowfall (snowpocalypse) in Washington, D.C., this February, while in Vancouver, British Columbia, site of the 2010 Winter Olympics, some events had to be postponed due to lack of sufficient snowfall. The shocking part is that these events occurred in the same week. My friends, it is time that some drastic changes took place.
While some argue that snow means no climate change – the reality is that climate change is very real. Eleven of the past twelve years rank among the warmest on record. During this time we have seen some of the most detrimental weather in history, including Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and the cyclone in Burma in 2008. The sad thing is, human beings are the main contributor to climate change; in essence we are determining our own fate.
Even President George H. W. Bush admitted as much, and signed an act in 1990 that stated "Industrial, agricultural, and other human activities, coupled with an expanding world population, are contributing to processes of global change that may significantly alter the Earth habitat within a few human generations."
How is it our fault though? Every day, we emit upwards of nearly 100 tons of harmful gasses and pollutants into the air. These pollutants get trapped in atmosphere and ozone creating a green house gas force field. The force field traps heat and causes the earth to continually warm - hence global warming.
Is it too late to stop global warming? No, but we have to act quickly. It has been concluded that, even if we could stop all use of fossil fuel tomorrow, the already emitted pollutants would continue to harm the planet for 150 years.
What can be done? There are many ways to curb global warming – we just have to take the initiative to do it. By investing in clean energy solutions we can create jobs, as well as slow climate change. Also, things we do during our day-to-day routine can be altered minimally and have a substantial effect. Check out this page here on Climate Crossroads to learn more about what can be done.
Posted by: Brian F. at 9:04AM PST on March 5, 2010
Posted by: Bruce Nilles at 9:13AM PST on March 4, 2010
A Senate vote is looming on a measure that would gut the Clean Air Act, proposed by Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski. The resolution's passage would give big polluters a bail out by blocking President Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from taking action to limit global warming pollution - even from the biggest polluters like coal plants and oil refineries.
Despite evidence that this measure was crafted by lobbyists who represent coal giants like Southern Company, Duke and Progress Energy, it is still gaining support in the Senate, and there are now similar measures in the House.
Major industrial facilities, including the nation's more than 500 existing coal plants, are responsible for almost 70% of our country's global warming pollution. Addressing the pollution from these sources is a key part of the big picture solution to global warming and energy independence. The agency has laid out a reasonable timeline for new regulations for these massive polluters and proposed measures that would require the biggest polluters to clean up first, so pollution would be quickly reduced without affecting smaller sources like small businesses, churches and apartment buildings.
Posted by: Heather M at 7:40AM PST on March 4, 2010
This is a guest post by Ann Mesnikoff, director of the Sierra Club Green Transportation Campaign. Join the Green Transportation Group here in Climate Crossroads.
Unfortunately, I can't speak Spanish but I know what NADA means - nothing. An alternative definition for NADA is National Automobile Dealers Association and nada (the Spanish definition here) is what they want to have happen when it comes to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) action on climate change. On March 1st, NADA sent a letter supporting Senator Lisa Murkowski's resolution to prohibit EPA from regulating greenhouse gas pollution under the Clean Air Act.
Murkowski's resolution, aka the Dirty Air Act, would not only block EPA from taking responsible steps to regulate CO2 and other greenhouse gases which threaten public health and the environment, it would kill EPA's historic greenhouse gas standards which complement new fuel economy rules.
Contrast NADA's "nothing" approach to tackling greenhouse gas pollution for vehicles under the Clean Air Act with what happened last week in California as reported by Megan Norris, Sierra Club California's clean car organizer:
California and the nation have a reason to celebrate. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) voted unanimously to pass a resolution that accepts compliance with federal greenhouse gas emission standards established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) fuel economy program as compliance with CA's vehicle emissions standards.In addition to what automakers said in California last week, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers - which represents GM, Ford, Chrysler, Toyota and many other major automakers - has specifically expressed support for EPA finalizing its greenhouse gas standards along with new fuel economy standards: "It's important to manufacturers to have those rules in place so that we can finalize future product plans," said alliance spokesman Charles Territo.
Nada - nothing - is not the answer.
Posted by: Abel Collins at 2:54PM PST on March 1, 2010
My mission with the Sierra Club is to fight climate change by reducing Rhode Island’s carbon emissions. Since 42% of our State’s emissions are produced by the transportation sector, Sierra devised the Transportation Choices 2020 campaign to affect the greatest reduction. Essentially, Rhode Island needs to move away from its dependency on the car culture in order to do its part, and that means we need more options than just the car in the driveway.
Too often, we overlook biking and walking as viable alternatives to our automobiles, but the fact is we live in a tiny State where the power in our legs could easily satisfy many of our transportation needs. If we placed greater emphasis on designing our communities and the roads between them to be more walkable and bikeable, we could reap enormous rewards in the battle against climate change, at the same time encouraging much more healthy lifestyles.
Unfortunately, Rhode Island bikers and pedestrians are confronted by unfriendly roads, designed for the singular use of the car. There is a movement afoot to change our cultural disregard for walking and biking, and it’s called complete streets. The idea is to incorporate space for all modes of transportation into street design and to restripe our old roads so they meet everyone’s needs.
Posted by: Heather M at 7:56AM PST on March 1, 2010
Today kicks off a busy couple of days for taking action, and we need your help!
This week, the Sierra Club is joining forces with dozens of organizations across the country for a 72 Hour Call in for Clean American Power to show our senators that voters will not wait another year for action on clean energy and climate legislation.
Join the 72 hour call in and tell your senators that we want action NOW on a comprehensive climate and clean energy bill.
Workers in hard hit industries cannot afford to watch jobs move overseas to countries like China and India while Congress drags its feet on building a clean energy economy.
Military families cannot afford to lose another parent, another spouse, or another child because our dependence on foreign oil threatens national security, while clean, American alternatives are ignored.
And our children cannot afford to lose their chance to enjoy the outdoors and live without fear rising sea levels, stronger storms, droughts and famine as the effects of global warming worsen, while skeptics are indulged.
Our clean energy future is on the line -- will you make the call?
This week, veterans, workers, business owners, people of faith and environmentalists are banding together with a common purpose, passing strong clean energy and climate legislation that will create jobs, build our economy, make our country more secure, and protect our planet.
We need all hands on deck to win this fight -- call your senators today! 72 hours can change history.
And if you like taking action on clean energy and climate change, then join the Climate Crossroads group!
Posted by: Heather M at 12:47PM PST on February 23, 2010
It's that time again - time to highlight some interesting clean energy news of note that's come through my inbox recently.
Let's start with some great activism news - this time from the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse. Some fantastic students at the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse held a public event on campus last Thursday to demonstrate the impacts of mountaintop removal coal - only they used a huge pile of snow instead of a real mountain. They want the university to move beyond coal and switch to cleaner energy sources.
Check out this video from WKBT-TV to see some great images of the event (sorry, you have to watch a 15-second ad first):
Posted by: Sophie Matson at 2:04PM PST on February 19, 2010
The federal government is the largest single consumer of energy in the country. Taxpayers ensure that federal vehicles' gas tanks are full and the lights and heat stay on in government buildings.
President Obama hopes to save money and lead the country to a cleaner energy future by making the federal government a model. In October, he signed an executive order requiring that the government reduce its greenhouse-gas emissions by 28 percent over the next decade.
Obama also asked federal employees to participate in the GreenGov Challenge, through which they can submit practical ideas about improving sustainability and energy efficiency at government facilities. Yesterday, in a video posted on the White House's blog, Obama describes how successful the project has been thus far and calls on employees to put their ideas into action. The public is allowed to view the site (but not contribute), so even if you’re not a federal employee, head over to get some ideas for greening your own workplace. While you're at it, also check out the Green Life's tips for an eco-friendlier office.
Posted by: Heather M at 1:40PM PST on February 18, 2010
This is a guest post by Jesse Prentice-Dunn of the Sierra Club Green Transportation Campaign. Join the Green Transportation Group here on Climate Crossroads.
As I recently blogged, TIGER grants announced this week will fund transportation infrastructure projects that help build the foundation of a more efficient transportation system that reduces global warming pollution. In particular, biking and pedestrian infrastructure were big winners, with 24 of the 51 funded projects including some biking or walking component. Two grants in particular will fund bicycling and walking infrastructure networks in Philadelphia, PA, and Indianapolis, IN. Other funded projects will add bike lanes to bridges and downtown streets.
Creating safe and accessible biking and walking infrastructure could not come at a better time, as levels of commuting by biking and walking are skyrocketing. This month's SIERRA magazine features a great story on bike commuting and pedaling towards a post carbon future. Check it out!
To find out more about biking and walking projects receiving TIGER grants, visit our friends over at America Bikes. And be sure to join our very popular Biking Group here on Climate Crossroads.
Posted by: Heather M at 7:15AM PST on February 18, 2010
This is a guest post by Jesse Prentice-Dunn of the Sierra Club Green Transportation Campaign. Join the Green Transportation Group here on Climate Crossroads!
I doubt there was a drum roll or trumpet fanfare, but yesterday Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced the long awaited recipients of 51 TIGER grants.
What is TIGER, you ask? In the economic recovery bill passed by Congress in February 2009, $1.5 billion was allocated for a competitive transportation grant program, named TIGER, with funding given to projects that have a significant long-term impact on a region and increase the sustainability and safety of our transportation system while making our communities more livable. Essentially the TIGER grant program is a competitive, performance-based method of funding transportation projects instead of the traditional earmark and formula-driven methods.
Over the last year, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) received nearly 1500 applications from all 50 states, territories and the District of Columbia, requesting funding for projects totaling $59 billion – roughly 40 times the amount of funding available. Applications ran the gamut – from new highways to downtown transit projects to port improvements. With so many applications, DOT had the opportunity to either select a range of forward-looking projects or continue funding the same sprawl and congestion that has grown for decades.
The result? From a quick glance at the 51 projects announced today, the Department of Transportation has fulfilled the goal of the TIGER program, selecting projects that will help build the foundation of a more efficient transportation system that reduces global warming pollution.
The projects funded represent a range of modes that will increase transportation options – 26% transit, 25% rail, 23% roads and 8% ports. Some specific examples of funded projects include a bicycle and pedestrian network in Philadelphia, a New Orleans streetcar line connecting an Amtrak hub to local transit, and intermodal rail facilities in Memphis, TN, and Birmingham, AL, that will redirect freight from highways to more efficient rail. To see the full list of projects funded, visit the Department of Transportation website (PDF), and you can also see the various states' reactions via this Google News Search.
The bad? Fortunately there's very little to report in the way of the bad or the ugly. Road and bridge projects funded focus primarily on repair and maintenance instead of merely constructing new capacity. The few projects that build new capacity, such as a highway around Dallas, Texas, will include tolling and other congestion mitigation technology. Additionally, we were pleased that several projects that do not advance the goals laid out in TIGER were not selected, such as a proposed bridge over the wild and scenic St. Croix River in Minnesota, which our North Star Chapter of the Sierra Club has fought for years.
In sum, the TIGER grants announced Wednesday show that there are innovative transportation solutions throughout the country that will help us create a greener, more efficient transportation system. Further, the 51 projects selected from a wide range of the good, the bad and the ugly are those that can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and lay the foundation for 21st century transportation.
Posted by: Brian F. at 1:06PM PST on February 17, 2010
We are debuting a series of videos with green cuisine expert Annie Somerville. The first video is up on the Green Cuisine group's blog right here. Watch Somerville demonstrate demonstrate climate-friendly cooking with beets.
Posted by: Bruce Nilles at 8:28AM PST on February 16, 2010
Every day it seems as if we see another energy company trying to convince us of new ways to keep us tied to oil and coal. Yet these fuels always turn out to be dirtier and more expensive, especially when their environmental costs are considered.
Liquid coal is one of these same old fossil fuels the industry touts as the next best thing for American energy, but the latest culprit in this pattern of dirty fuels purported to be the U.S. energy savior is "oil sands," a thick, black dirt derived from the soil under the great forests of Canada.
Use of these polluting oil sands is particularly ironic right now, as we approach what may be a near snowless Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Many have found it strange to read the reports of snow being shipped into Vancouver from hundreds of miles away; sadly, due to the effects of global warming, future Winter Olympic Games may never be the same.
Yes, the East Coast was just blasted with record snowfall in the past week, but long-term trends show less snowpack at higher altitudes, and what is there is melting earlier – making it not only a harder time for the winter sports industry, but also having catastrophic consequences for the western wildfire seasons as droughts increase.
Right now, unfortunately, Canada is pursuing an energy policy that could have a huge impact on winter sports by accelerating global warming – and the U.S. is following suit.
The Canadian province of Alberta is home to a form of oil that's considered the dirtiest on earth. It's called the oil sands, also known as tar sands, and each barrel creates three times the global warming pollution as conventional oil. In fact, oil sands are now the fastest growing source of global warming pollution in Canada. They are also one of the most expensive forms of gasoline on the planet.
Now the Canadian government and the oil industry want to open up the U.S. gasoline market through a vast network of pipelines crossing through Montana, Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota, Kansas, Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Texas.
And oil sands don't only represent a threat of climate change bringing less snow or of paying more for Canadian gasoline. Producing this dirty oil also requires clear-cutting giant swaths of ancient forest and, excessive water usage, which creates lakes of toxic waste so large they can be seen from space (sounds like Canada's own version of mountaintop removal coal mining!).
If we allow this massive project to creep across our border, it will lock America into dependence on yet another foreign source of oil, just as our local, homegrown clean energy industry is beginning to thrive. It would threaten the good-paying, lasting American jobs that wind and solar and efficiency projects create—the kind of jobs that can't be outsourced.
Continued widespread usage of oil makes America reliant on foreign dictatorships such as Saudi Arabia and Iran. We cannot seriously combat global warming and protect American independence without changing our insatiable need for oil. And the way toward breaking an addiction cannot be to double down on that addiction by finding ever dirtier and more expensive sources. The way to get off oil is to get off oil.
Instead of sending U.S. dollars to Canada, we need to invest in alternatives to oil at home. Fortunately, the best investments also clean up the local environment, combat global warming, and create home-grown jobs in energy efficiency and renewable energy.
Relying on yet another dirty fuel it could put an end to the winters we know. Unless we act now to combat climate change, future Winter Olympics could be dramatically different than the games we love today – whether through using artificial snow or forcing outdoor events to compete indoors.
Thankfully there are already some businesses choosing to take a stand against oil sands, including Whole Foods and Bed, Bath and Beyond, who announced last week that they would not use suppliers who use oil sands as source fuel. Last week even saw a group of BP shareholders introducing a resolution that called for a review of the risks of the company's oil sands project.
Americans have a chance to turn things around. Right now, we are poised to become a leader in the global clean energy economy. One of the most important things we can do to demonstrate that leadership is say no to Canada's oil sands.
Posted by: Guay at 6:53AM PST on February 16, 2010
Mahatma Gandhi brought the
Gandhi’s aura endures at the Ashoka-Lemelson Tech4Society conference. This initiative aims to provide technologies for the benefit of society at the “bottom of the pyramid” (BOP) – the most vulnerable segment of humanity, that currently lives below the poverty line of $1.25 a day.
The Ashoka fellows have put together impressive initiatives of socially-minded, development-focused technologies for providing the rural and urban poor with the services they desperately lack. From health care to micro credit to job creation, Ashoka fellows are stepping in where society has failed – and are doing a remarkable job.
One of the most interesting applications of their social entrepreneurship, and the one that is so reminiscent of Gandhi’s Salt March, relates to renewable energy. Today the BOP pay an enormous tax related to a lack of development, particularly from clean and reliable energy. Whether it is indoor air pollution that kills children, or a lack of reliable lighting that halts educational advancement, this hidden tax overwhelmingly adds to the constant grind of poverty.
Ashoka-Lemelson fellows Sergio Losana from Yansa, and Harish Hande from SELCO-India revealed in their presentations how the centralization of renewable energy is replicating the power structure that has kept fossil fuel industries rich, while blocking the poor from achieving development. From the familiar power of entrenched interests, to the overwhelming struggle to develop targeted renewable energy options, these fellows are determined that renewable energy will transcend the bifurcated world of the have’s and have not’s by democratizating energy and empowering the poor.
Hanish and Sergio, in the true spirit of social entrepreneurship, gave the gripping account of a world where renewable energy accomplishes the task of placing power in the hands of the people – where it ought to rightfully be. This task accomplishes a myriad of development benefits, while reducing black carbon and the misguided calls for coal fired power plants in the name of poverty alleviation. Environmental protection, clean energy, and development are after all, inextricably linked.
Gandhi empowered a nation by making salt. Sixty years later these fellows are empowering the nation by generating and distributing clean, renewable energy for the BOP. Today it is not about making salt, it is about making light - and along with it opportunity.
Posted by: Heather M at 9:12AM PST on February 9, 2010
I thought I'd take a moment to dig out from under the three feet of snow here on the East Coast and share some recent news of note from around the web.
First, as if we didn't get enough with astro-turfing last year from the coal industry, now it's the Alaska legislature's turn. They're putting together a $1.5 million campaign to protect the oil industry and cast doubt on putting the polar bear on the endangered species list. You know, because the oil industry sure needs help - it's not like they didn't spend $154 million lobbying Congress in 2009.
Next up, and related to advertising "fake it until you make it," the coal industry is gearing up another multi-million dollar ad campaign to convince you that coal is green! The spots, launched this week, focus "on jobs and low-cost power, the latest offering in a three-year, nearly $120 million effort to sell Congress and the White House on coal's future."
Coal's future - hmm. The same coal that destroys communities and landscapes in Appalachia? Read this sad article from Virginia this week to learn more about that. I don't want that kind of future - no matter how much the coal industry wants to convince us that flattening the mountains is a great way to make room for shopping centers (seriously, check out this article from the same news outlet as the other VA one, and from the day after that one ran!)
That's pretty sad, but there are communities that are seeing the clean energy alternatives to coal - including Portland, Oregon. Last week Portland Mayor Sam Adams gave his State of the City address and specifically talked about the need to move away from coal and toward clean energy. Check out this excerpt from Mayor Adams' speech:
The third and final revelation from this brutal economic storm is that we remain overly reliant on yesterday's energy production models.It's nice to see cities taking a stand on clean energy and global warming.
Meanwhile, the federal government is taking some administrative strides on global warming. This week the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration unveiled a new Climate Service "dedicated to bringing together the agency's strong climate science and service delivery capabilities." We, of course, strongly approve!
Finally, let's end this update by tooting our own horn a bit. USA Today reported on our new Activist Network (are you a part of it yet?) and gave it great praise.
And we've posted some more great photos and updates on last week's Environmental Protection Agency public hearings on its proposed ozone rule. You can see the photos in our Big Picture Group Gallery, and read the post on the Big Picture Group Blog.
Posted by: Brian F. at 9:27AM PST on February 8, 2010
Here's a scrappy video of NASA scientist James Hansen, who urges all college campuses to move beyond coal.
Posted by: Guay at 6:13AM PST on February 8, 2010
Posted by: Bruce Nilles at 8:53AM PST on February 5, 2010
"I've been hospitalized many times with asthma attacks. It's scary when you can't catch your breath. When I was young, going to the hospital with asthma was a monthly thing. Now I'm on an adult dose of asthma medicine and the only other way to manage the asthma is to limit my outdoor activities. That's hard to do at 14. My doctor's even talking to me about moving away from Houston's pollution when I go to college."Those are the words of 14-year old asthma patient Aaron Smith, who attended the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hearing on its proposed ozone rule in Houston, Texas, on Tuesday with his mother Rosa Smith. The Smith family lives near the Houston refineries.
If those statements by Aaron aren't enough to make you think about what kind of pollution we're putting into our air, that's a shame. Smog, one of the most dangerous forms of air pollution, comes mostly from coal-fired power plants and automobiles and is harmful to human health even at very low levels. Scientists have compared exposure to smog pollution as getting sunburn on the lungs. Smog also blocks the views and harms forests and wildlife in some of our nation's most special places, like the Grand Canyon and the Great Smoky Mountains.
Posted by: Heather M at 11:53AM PST on February 4, 2010
Glenn Hurowitz has a good column over on Grist about which industries produce the most jobs per million dollars of government money invested. Using research from the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts, he helped pull together this most excellent graphic:
Posted by: Heather M at 8:44AM PST on February 3, 2010
The many people who attended yesterday's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hearings on its proposed ozone/smog rule are calling them a success. The proposed National Ambient Air Quality Standard follows the recommendation of EPA scientists and numerous health groups, setting the limit between 60 and 70 parts per billion - and we strongly support this move.
We had great numbers of concerned citizens, scientists, doctors and more turn out at the hearings in Houston, Texas, and Arlington, Virginia, to talk about the need for stronger standards on ozone - which is also known as smog.
In Houston, our Lone Star chapter teamed up with the American Lung Association, Environmental Defense Fund, and the Galveston-Houston Association for Smog Prevention to state the facts on the risks of smog. The coalition got some good media coverage before and after the event, including their live-blog on DailyKos - and they even made this fantastic video of it all.
Posted by: Brian F. at 8:48AM PST on February 2, 2010
I quit meat for 2010 to reduce my carbon footprint. But this past week I've come to realize that vegetarianism is not a be-all, end-all. For example, the other day I noticed after the fact that the grapes I bought were from Chile. Whoops. And then I read Mr. Green's articles here and here about why purchasing meat from small farmers might be better than eating no meat at all. He makes a very persuasive "eat less meat" argument.
Meanwhile, I am in the middle of The Omnivore's Dilemma by food guru Michael Pollan. I was struck by the chapter about Big Organic and the industry's steady morph into something that resembles the conventional. I'm always leery of "organic" microwable dinners that I periodically see at my grocery store. But what Pollan writes here (p.182) really stuck out: